For 35 years members of St. Vincent de Paul Society, named for the patron saint of all works of charity, have given to the homeless in Columbia.”No one thinks about the homeless around Christmas time,” said Robert Keeder, Vice-President, Basilica of St. Peter St. Vincent de Paul Society in Columbia. “We at St. Peter’s found that very unacceptable.” Keeder and the society approached the monsignor with a plan for the homeless people with nowhere to receive comfort on Christmas day. The monsignor gave it his blessing and that first year they started raising money and had enough to give away hats, gloves and scarves to the homeless. After thirty five years they are now giving each homeless person a knapsack full of personal and comfort items which include a wool hat, two pair of socks, a rain poncho, gloves,a scarf and assorted hygiene items. The bag serves as a backpack with double straps that they can continue using throughout the year.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society meets at The Basilica of St. Peter located on Assembly Street each month where they plan their activities. Every fourth Saturday of the month a sit-down meal is normally provided to the homeless but due to the pandemic previously prepared meals are given out and to be take away and consumed elsewhere. “Doesn’t matter if it’s rain, snow or whatever we will feed from here every fourth Saturday,” said Keeder. “We also provide food on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and Easter Sunday.”
A small group of volunteers comprise the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Marilyn Gray has been volunteering since 2008. “This is what we do,” said Marilyn. “It’s important to provide comfort to those less fortunate and a blessing that we are able to do it.”