For years, the Sacred Heart Food Closet has operated to provide groceries to needy families in the community with the assistance of generous donors and volunteers. In the spring of 2016, the Food Closet was incorporated into the newly-formed Gridley Conference of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, making it one of approximately 44,600 conferences and part of a “worldwide, living reality” that includes 800,000 members in 150 countries. While the Conference is affiliated with Sacred Heart Catholic Church, it is independent and has its own members and officers who direct its work.
Members of the Society are known as Vincentians, who are called “…to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love.” One of the rules for Vincentians is that “No work of charity is foreign to the Society… The Society serves those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender or political opinions… Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need and the forgotten, the victims of exclusion or adversity.”
The Conference serves the communities of Biggs, Live Oak, Richvale and Gridley. A Vincentian strives to be the face and hands of Jesus for someone in need, and to see in the needy person an image of “the suffering Christ.” Because of this it has been said that “the Society has two aims: to do a great deal of spiritual good to its members through the exercise of charity, and to do a little spiritual and temporal good to a few poor families in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The primary work of the Conference throughout the year has two elements. First, the Conference continues to operate the Food Closet which is located in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall at 1560 Hazel Street in Gridley. Clients who need food can visit the Food Closet and receive free groceries. The regular hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. At various times of the year, the Food Closet distributes blankets, clothes and coats. The Food Closet serves hundreds of families per year.
The second element of the Conference’s work is with emergency financial assistance. If clients experience a financial emergency, such as potential eviction, the termination of utility services, or an inability to pay for urgently needed medication, they can contact the Conference to arrange a “home visit”, where Vincentians can assess the needs of the client and determine what financial assistance the Conference can provide.
Groceries can also be delivered as part of the home visit to clients who are homebound or unable to access the Food Closet. The Conference began making home visits in May of 2016, and has helped over seventy families in the community, providing thousands of dollars of financial assistance.
All of the work of the Conference, as well as the services and goods distributed, is provided by volunteers and donors, without any expectation of repayment or obligation on the part of recipients.
None of the work of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is possible without donors to provide funds and goods, and without volunteers who generously give their time, talent and treasure to service of the poor in our community. Most recently, Gridley Safeway selected the Conference as this year’s exclusive partner in the “Feed the Need” Food Drive. More than $6,000 of food was donated to the Food Closet in connection with this program.