God had been transforming Tony Talbert’s heart for several years—he knew he was called to impact his local community and truly get in the trenches and serve those around him. So, when the opportunity to form a local SVdP conference came about, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. In 2019, he helped launch the Tri-County Good Samaritan Conference in Richmond, the only Conference in the East District outside of Indianapolis. The Conference represents three parishes: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Bridget and St. Gabriel.
As Conference President, Tony quickly cast a vision for a SVdP facility that could house their Changing Lives Forever (CLF) sessions and serve as a hub for the services they were providing. He and his team looked for a building for more than 18 months. But they kept coming back to one: an old, abandoned laundromat.
“It needed a lot of work, but it was perfect at the same time,” says Tony. “There is plenty of space to serve multiple purposes, plus it was in a high-traffic area in the part of town we wanted to serve.”
The laundromat came with a reputation—sadly, it was the last place a missing woman had been seen decades before. Tony believes they can give it new life and help the community see it as a place of hope, not despair.
Thanks to very generous donors—who provided both financial and labor assistance—the Conference has redone the outside of the building, put walls up inside, replaced the ceiling, painted, added new lighting and made other repairs and upgrades. Thanks to their efforts, the facility is now nearly ready to open its doors.
The building includes:
• Meeting space that will be used as the CLF classroom as well as space for parishioner service projects
• Prayer room that gives people a quiet, peaceful place to reflect or meditate
• Display area for the furniture ministry, so residents can see the types of items available
• Two sets of washers and dryers that local residents can use for free
• Commercial kitchen, which will serve multiple purposes
When he cast the vision for the building, Tony—a former chef—knew they needed a commercial kitchen because food would be essential to their programming.
“This area is a food desert. The nearest grocery that people can walk to is a Dollar Tree, and there’s no fresh produce or meat there,” he explains. “I want to take the energy of food—a necessity of life—and use it to bring people together and help them.”
Twice a week, the Conference will offer homemade meals to families, where they can pay by donation—whatever they can afford. Parish families will also be able to purchase the meals at full price to help provide an income source for the Conference.
Additionally, they plan to offer healthy cooking on a budget classes. The Conference offered cooking classes at local parishes that were well received, so they anticipate even greater interest since the facility is located closer to those they’re serving.
Eventually, Tony also would like to host a small farmers market. The Conference may offer restaurant service once a week for additional revenue. Tony envisions the CLF investigators volunteering for this and other events.
“Helping someone provides one of the most amazing feelings,” Tony says. “We want to share it with as many as possible, and as our CLF investigators learn skills, we want to help them find ways to give back to the community as well. Together, we’re partners in helping people help themselves.”