St. Vincent de Paul Social Services of Bend will hold its second-annual Have a Heart for Bend fundraiser Feb. 1.
The event will feature local craft brews, wine tasting, music by R&B act Out of the Blue and a buffet dinner presented by chef Ed Chillcut (see “If you go”).
For some reason, organizers of the event say, St. Vincent de Paul lacks the high profile of some other area agencies — but its work is no less critical to the thousands of Central Oregonians it helps.
“The first and foremost thing we do here is a food pantry,” explained Bill Parks, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Social Services of Bend. The 1,000-square foot pantry provides an average of 26,000 meals monthly.
“We have on average 620 families that come in every month,” Parks said. That’s 990 adults and 785 children, he said.
“On a minimum, we give them a five-day food box, which means that every member of the family has three meals a day for five days,” he said.
But that’s just the beginning of what St. Vincent de Paul provides to those in need. It also offers nine low-income, transitional housing units to help keep people off the streets. “We keep our rents artificially low (and) pay all the utilities,” Parks said. After a couple of years or so, “we hope that they can move on and get back on the path that they fell off.”
Its winter utility program helps people keep the heat on and water flowing October through March. And from November through March, St. Vincent provides propane vouchers to homeless people in camps for cooking and heating.
Throughout the year, a portion of the budget is devoted to helping pay for people’s prescriptions. “A lot of these are psychopharmaceuticals that people need,” he said.
Lastly, St. Vincent keeps a supply of warm clothing, hats, boots, gloves and mittens for winter needs.
Some of these services overlap with those of other agencies. In that case, St. Vincent will work cooperatively with the other outfits to help cover needs, Parks said.
For its food needs, St. Vincent de Paul receives help from retail partners such as Trader Joe’s and Albertsons, but the bulk of it comes from NeighborImpact, the regional food bank in the state’s network of food banks.
“Annually we get about 275,000 to 280,000 pounds of food donated. On top of that, we spend $3,800 a month of our own money to buy the groceries we’re not getting in. Maybe more milk or tuna or high-protein items.”
With the reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in November and unemployment benefits running dry, “we’re desperately trying to fill this in with all the food that we get,” said Parks. “Now we’re seeing this bigger need. We’re up to an 11 to 12 percent increase over last year right now, and the increase is going to get bigger. So we have our Have a Heart fundraiser to try to help offset these new clients that are coming through the door.”
Last year’s event raised $7,000 for the charitable organization.
— Reporter: 541-383-0349,, firstname.lastname@example.org