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By Paul Ainslie, SVdP Indianapolis Council President

In August, the Indianapolis Archdiocese Council celebrates 75 years of serving those in need in central and southern Indiana. A longtime volunteer recently gave me a historical document on our slow and arduous start. We began with a dedicated parish priest and a small conference. The goal was simple: help those in need. Whether the need was food, clothes or simply someone to listen, St. Vincent de Paul of Indianapolis was there. Over the years our scope has broadened, our facilities have grown, and the 58 Conferences in the Council now serve thousands. Yet our mission has not changed.

An example of working to meet those needs is our Distribution Center on East Maryland Street. Located in a former mattress factory, the “DC,” as it is affectionately called, houses all the work of receiving, sorting and redistributing the thousands of donated goods we receive. Through the 38 blue clothing bins around Indy, we collect clothing and shoes as often as twice per week. Deliveries by individuals to our loading dock bring more clothing, plus furniture and household goods. Finally, five days per week our trucks pick up large household items at homes to be shared. Linens are washed and folded, furniture and appliances are tested and repaired, and clothes are sorted and hung for distribution. Nearly all this work is done by dedicated volunteers who share our mission of helping those in need.

In normal times, SVdP uses the Home Visitor process—meeting those in need in-person to identify household necessities and praying with them if appropriate. During the pandemic, we have had to suspend these visits, but they will return soon! The need is still there, and we’ve replaced that process with online forms and phone calls to identify needs, connect services and schedule pickups at the DC. This flow—of donated goods through our volunteer’s hands to those in need—represents the embodiment of the Vincentian spirit.

It is this system of our donors and volunteers preparing the goods in the DC to be distributed to our neighbors in need that truly identifies our service ministry. It is our hands reaching out to their hands, and our hearts touching their hearts.