Please read the story of our West Oakland direct service campus guest Jerry, in his own words. Your support of St. Vincent de Paul helps community members, like Jerry, enjoy a safe place to eat. We are happy to prayerfully serve alongside community members who inspire us each day.
“I’ve been coming here off an on for a few years. I usually sit down and have a meal. I like to talk to people when I come. I’ve known the security guard, Eddie, for a long time. There are a lot of nice people here. I used to take showers but I don’t need them anymore because I am no longer homeless.
“I like to hang out at the library and read books. I play basketball, too. I do some odd jobs when I can. My SSI is pending, but I don’t want to rely on it for the rest of my life. I like reading nonfiction, like autobiographies and biographies of Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. I also like to read Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins for thrillers. I’ve been in transitional housing since 2017. It’s not a bad place. They help with permanent housing if you want it. I have a housing coordinator I’m going to meet with this month. I want a space of my own. I want a home.
“I joined a rehab program called Options in 2017 after I was hit by a hit and run driver and was in a coma for one month. I was asleep for a lot less time than they expected or than people usually are from injuries like mine. After I woke up I was too scared to ever use again, so I entered the Options program and I’ve been straight ever since. When I was doing nothing, I had nothing to lose. When I survived and came out of a coma and almost lost my life, I didn’t want to risk it again. The man upstairs was with me. He had to be. It wasn’t me who woke me up. It had to be him.
“If I can help somebody, I’m willing to do what I can, even though I need so much help. I can be there to talk with others. People have helped me with no strings attached and I’m alive to talk about it. I’m not where I want to be, but thank goodness I’m not where I used to be.”
The International Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old student at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Challenged to "practice what they preach," Frederic and a group of fellow students sought out the poor in Paris and brought them bread, clothing and most importantly, friendship. Similar groups began forming throughout the world including the United States. The first St. Vincent de Paul Conference of Alameda County in Oakland was active from 1882 to 1892. The current Council of Alameda County was established in 1938. It began with a group of six volunteer groups, called Conferences, from throughout the county who joined together to execute our mission by having district meetings together, assessing the needs of their communities, and taking action to help serve them.
Our Mission & Values
The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County is to provide relief and support to those in need through person-to-person assistance guided by Vincentian principles of fellowship and individual spiritual growth. SVdP staff and volunteers are a charity united by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to the basic rule.
The National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a network of charity organizations with over 800,000 members. In Alameda County, SVdP is represented within a Catholic parish called a Conference. Members, known as Vincentians, serve those in need in their neighborhoods by collecting and distributing funds for eviction prevention, utility bills, and medical costs; providing clothing and furniture; and stocking church food pantries. Today, over 800 Vincentian volunteers, across 38 parishes in Alameda County, provide assistance for over 60,000 people a year. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County includes these 38 parish conferences, two thrift stores and our West Oakland direct service campus.
For more information on your nearest Conference, or for emergency resource referrals call 510-638-7600.
For more information on the national network of SVdP, visit:
St. Vincent de Paul ended 2018 on a good note by filling our dining room with fresh pizza on December 29. Little Caesars brought their 18-wheeler Love Kitchen to the West Oakland direct service campus to serve enough pizza for 900 people.
Thanks to the pizzas made and donated by the Love Kitchen, we served almost 600 trays to our guests for lunch, with plenty leftover for a pizza night in the shelter. during lunch service. There was a party-like buzz throughout the kitchen and dining room as volunteers, staff and guests shared their glee about pizza day. It goes to show how a simple menu of pizza, salad, fruit and a sweet treat can bring joy and levity to our community. We are grateful to have Little Caesars as a partner and look forward to having the Love Kitchen back in our neighborhood soon!
On January 8, Mayor Libby Schaaf used her first full day of her second term as Oakland mayor to serve at various local organizations, and chose to include our West Oakland direct service campus in her tour. There, she and a group of her office staff spoke with our clients and served food, along with juice, milk and water during lunch.
Mayor Schaaf has consistently supports SVdP and our programs. "I could think of no better place to spend my first full day of my second term as the mayor of Oakland. Not only is it about returning to my own roots of community service, but being in proximity to the people I most want to serve as well as the people who are in service to our community’s unsheltered and homeless. This is just a beautiful operation fueled by compassionate volunteers, amazing staff and guests who clearly love not just the tasty meal, but the wonderful community,” Mayor Schaaf said.
We are grateful for the support we receive from the mayor's office and look forward to their next visit!
The St. Philip Neri community consistently supports St. Vincent de Paul through its service. This fall, sixth grade students at St. Philip Neri School provided over three hundred new towels to our men’s and women’s centers. They were collected at the school and church, and at St. Albert’s Church in Alameda. “The students took pride in this project. They were so excited to count the number of towels that came in,” Vincentian volunteer Marianne Henderson said. The towels will be used to provide showers to hundreds of people each week at SVdP.
At St. Philip Neri, service learning is engrained in their curriculum. Each class chooses a service project to administer throughout the school year.
St. Philip Neri School emphasizes the role of leadership and community. The school was given the Outstanding School Award by Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl at their grant awards breakfast on December 13. Representatives from the eighth grade class attended the reception to accept their award. St. Philip Neri represents the positive impact young people can make within their communities. Thank you for your generosity!
Community outreach worker Dave comes to SVdP frequently to meet our guests and see how he can help them. Our center is open to all, and we welcome the great service that Dave does out of the goodness of his heart. He is a great light in our center and positively affects the lives of everyone he meets. Read below for his story.
“I do outreach work in West Oakland. My clients are homeless, addicts, survivors. I came here to find those people, because they don’t always want to find you. I’ve been coming to St. Vincent de Paul for five years. I eat in the dining room and socialize and connect with people that I can refer to services I know. I’ve lived at the same home for 22 years. I spent 27 years as a stock broker. When I retired, I looked into this community and saw a lot of grief and pain. I spoke to the executive director at St. Vincent at the time and she let me interact with the clients.
“I know the people in this community. I do a lot of work with West Oakland Health, so I refer people to them when I’m here. I’m from Jamaica. There, they teach you ‘you’re your brother’s keeper.’ In America, everyone is in it for the individual, not for the collective wellbeing. Mental health services are in a shortage around here. There are some brilliant talents in this center, but no one has ever encouraged them. No one has told them they love them. That is a shame.
“People fail to understand that when someone says they’re cold or hungry, that need is now; you can’t wait to act. I come back to St. Vincent de Paul to help human beings. I promised myself I’ll always do something for somebody. The reward comes when you look at another human and you know you’ve helped them.”
Photo courtesy of bostonherald.com
Giorgio Tavecchio began volunteering in our free dining room in September, and quickly became a reliable dishroom helper. Over the coming weeks, we got to know him better, and found out he was a professional football player who was spending time volunteering while in between NFL teams. He even played for the Oakland Raiders between 2014 and 2016, to the delight of some of our staff members.
On October 22, he made his debut with the Atlanta Falcons after their kicker was injured. Tavecchio executed a perfect game as their kicker. Tavecchio kicked a 56-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that led the team to beat the New York Giants 23-20. He was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals and 2 for 2 on extra points. Though Giorgio is now staying busy in the NFL, he did have time to send a message saying SVdP is in his thoughts and prayers. Good luck, Giorgio, and thank you for your work at SVdP We hope you come to visit!
Our Kitchen of Champions job training program’s Cohort 59 graduated on September 13, 2018 in the West Oakland campus community center surrounded by family and community. We wish sincere congratulations to our graduates: Alonzo Curry, Leander Sellers, Anthony Randall, Trina Hewitt, Aniqua Jones and Juan Salinas.
Each graduate prepared a favorite meal to share with all attendees, including po boys, gumbo, enchiladas, sweet rice, steak, chicken salad, and more. The ceremony featured keynote addresses from local chef, media star and entrepreneur, Chef Aminah Robinson, and KoC Cohort 47 alumnus Chef Marshawn Howard, who now owns his own catering company. Each graduate was able to address their guests and teachers, while receiving their certificates of completion and brand new knife sets.
This group of six graduates was essential to serving over 500 meals per day in our free dining room, and even were able to use their own recipes to feed our guests. For example, graduate Aniqua Jones made a delicious jerk spice that was very well received by our dining room guests and staff. On top of culinary lessons and practice, the trainees learn soft skills, such as resume building and interviewing techniques. “It was a really good program. I think everybody should do it. It’s a great opportunity to learn new things, even if you’re a cook already. There’s always stuff to learn,” Jones said. Congratulations to Cohort 59, we are very proud!
Image from: http://oaktownnoir.strikingly.com/
Eastern Span by Rick Paulas, "a neo-noir novel set in Oakland, circa 2013-14" follows Pug, a member of the working class who is searching for a long-lost friend, and ends up uncovering a housing conspiracy on the way.
Author Rick Paulas lives in Oakland, and his work has been featured in Wired, VICE, The New York Times, and more. The novel is available to purchase online. Each download, which includes original artwork by local artists, is available for free, and/or for a "pay-what-you-want" donation, which will go to one of six organizations supporting the homeless in Oakland. St. Vincent de Paul is grateful to be on of those organizations. If you'd like to supply a donation to SVdP, please specify when you make the payment.
This is a great opportunity to support local talent, while giving back to St. Vincent de Paul, so we can continue our basic needs services for the homeless and low-income families, and assist in eviction prevention. Thank you to Rick Paulas for demonstrating a creative way to support local nonprofits. Your work means so much to the community!
More information can be found here:
Payment can be made here:
Or email Rick for another method of payment: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please put "Noir Book" or "Eastern Span" in the memo, to designate what the payment is for.
Jack Dice is the Muffin Man. He’s one of many who regularly pick up donated food from distributors in Alameda and Contra Costa counties and deliver it to organized food programs in Oakland. He recently made a delivery to SVdP with his granddaughter and shared a bit of the history of the Muffin People:
“When we started thirty years ago the big thing for breakfast was muffins. You could get muffins everywhere. One day we brought food over to St. Mary’s Center and one of the ladies started saying “Here comes the muffin man!” and it stuck! We became the Muffin People since ladies joined and we made it gender neutral. It takes 23 vehicles a week to do this. We bring food six days a week and on the seventh day ECAP (Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program) makes our run. I set that up for them. We drive to four different organizations: SVdP, St. Mary’s Center, ECAP and A Friendly Manor. We’re always looking for new people!”
Our dining room guests love the treats the Muffin People bring, and the cupcakes from Suzie Cakes are especially popular. Thank you to Jack and the Muffin People for finding a creative way to decrease food waste through food reclamation and for helping our community!