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COVID-19: Prince George's St. Vincent de Paul Society stepping up to keep everyone fed during crisis

Society is limiting seating to 50, looking at take-out and delivery options, but needs volunteers
The Vincent St. Paul de Society downtown Prince George sees many lining up for services throughout the day. (via Jess Fedigan)

St. Vincent de Paul Society’s Drop-in Centre, which feeds the most vulnerable populations in Prince George, is now having to accommodate feeding those in need while taking precautions against COVID-19.

The centre is sanitizing constantly and limiting the number of people allowed in at a time for meals.

“We are trying to provide their food needs because we feel if we stopped serving food we have up to sometimes 180 people a day that we will bring down their resistance,” explains St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Bernie Goold.

She says guests are being very cooperative as staff explains these are the rules that the government set out.

St. Vincent de Paul usually serves a light breakfast, a lunch with two sittings, and an evening sandwich line.

Goold adds the sittings will be reduced to 50 people and for the evening sandwich, they will be giving out bags of food.

“We are going to have an emergency meeting and have another look at it and see. If we do have to we will go to serving takeout food.”

The society will also be in contact with seniors who access its services and will put a call out for volunteers who can deliver to those who cannot make it down in person. She says the same steps will be taken, if necessary, for the family hamper program.

“There’s no way St. Vincent’s would want someone’s health being compromised through lack of food.”

Goold says food supply for the society isn’t an issue at the moment, but one struggle the society faces is a lack of able volunteers as many of its regular volunteers are seniors.

She says the society’s main focus is on keeping the volunteers and staff safe, but at the same time never neglecting that people depend on St. Vincent’s for their nutritional needs.

“On a normal, Monday to Friday period about 50 to 60 of our volunteers are seniors and some of their families are insisting they stay at home and we totally understand that,” says Goold.  

“We are so grateful for what they do for our society and we know that when this whole crisis is over we will need them again.”

The one item the society is in particular need of is hand sanitizing wipes, which they can hand out to individuals along with food items.

Goold noted that she is particularly saddened that both federal and provincial government officials have not addressed specifically addressed the needs of the homeless during this time of crisis.

“I understand every agency and every department of government is probably in panic mode but nobody is talking about the homeless,” says Goold.

“Nobody chooses to be out there. So many have mental health issues, addiction issues, and compromised health issues and that is what really, really makes me emotional.”

If you are able to and feel inclined to volunteer with the society, you can speak to the manager at the drop-in centre at 250-564-7871 to be scheduled.