For more than 20 years, the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Sacred Heart Catholic Church has been helping area families with food, clothing and financial assistance.
Elaine Stancil was among the small group that first met back in the early 1980s to discuss if there was a need to bring a branch of the international society - first started in France in the 1800s - to Cullman.
“There was a need and I think it’s grown each year,” said Stancil.
They provide food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and financial assistance on Fridays. Recipients must qualify for financial assistance.
President Katie Loyd said the society is living scripture. “One of the most important things is to love thy neighbor as you would love God,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to serve and be the face of Jesus.”
Loyd got involved in the food bank six years ago, prior to converting to Catholicism. She was attending the church and, “Father Patrick was telling the congregation about what St. Vincent does and how they help the community and he asked us to consider getting involved, and I did.”
A core of about 20 volunteers help out each week, although because of COVID-19, not all are currently able to. The virus has also increased the need for St. Vincent’s services.
“There’s more people coming in and asking for food,” said Loyd. She said some are in tears, embarrassed to be asking. “There’s no reason to be embarrassed,” she said. “That’s why we’re here, to serve them when they’re in need. They may not need us again, but we do want to be here when they need us.”
She said in 2019, the St. Vincent dePaul Society locally provided food for 1,731 families and gave financial assistance to 388 families. The financial assistance is given once a year per family.
Stancil noted that the society “is a spiritual program to help the members interact with each other and then you have more interaction when you see the need out there. You see these wonderful people out there who are caught up in unemployment, poverty, sickness or being elderly.”
Loyd credits the dedicated volunteers, church and others for the longevity of the society. “None of this could be done without the support of the church and the community,” she said. The church supports St. Vincent dePaul with financial donations and donations of food and clothing.
Stancil points out that while people often think of Christmas as the time of giving, “People need help year round.”
St. Vincent dePaul is open at Sacred Heart Church Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 - 11:45 a.m. For more information call 256-737-5131.