My Volunteer Opportunity : St-Vincent-de-Paul Center

by jasonethier25 on May 14, 2014 - 2:55pm

The organisation that I volunteered for is called Centre St-Vincent-de-Paul.  For nearly forty years, this organisation has been selling second hand furniture to families and people who do not have the financial luxury to pay for top price merchandise. With the help of kind-hearted and devoted volunteers, the organisation’s goal is to collect donations from people, and sell it at affordable prices. The organisation’s mission is to help families get essential accessories to help them live their lives and better their lifestyle. The purpose of this volunteer testimony is to glorify people who volunteer their own time to help people in need of clothing furniture, and other goods.


I originally thought of volunteering at a community center for my volunteer opportunity project ever since I volunteered for a food drive in November of 2013. It was a humbling experience, because it was shocking to see how many people were in need of food during the holidays. When Gabriel presented the volunteer project to us in class, I thought back to the food drive, since it was an incredible feeling to give back hope, food, and happiness to those who had little and who were less fortunate than I. It was also fitting to volunteer at a community center like St-Vincent-de-Paul because during the summer I work at a day camp, and we do a good amount of community work because we are employed by the city. Therefore, I grew accustomed to the idea of giving back to the community. Another variable that helped me choose this center for my paper is the fact that the author of the book that I had chose to read throughout the semester (A Year of Living Generously) had volunteered at the exact same center as I did for this project, so I wanted to read about the author’s experience volunteering for that organisation, and compare it to my own experience with the St-Vincent-de-Paul Center. Finally, I chose to volunteer at that center because everyone knows about the St-Vincent-de-Paul center in my region. There are six centers across the Lanaudière region, so I wanted to lend hand and work with people who volunteer their time and work hard to give happiness to the less fortunate on a daily basis.


I had volunteered on Tuesday April 15th. I had arrived at the center around 10h45 am. Once I arrived, I met Ginette, a 58 year old lady who had been volunteering at the center for five years. After I had dropped off my things in the employee lounge, Ginette gave me a tour of the center. I met other volunteers who were really kind, and to my surprise there were six other Cegep students who chose to spend a day volunteering as well. I was put in the donation department in the back store which meant that I had to take items from a box which an elderly man gave me, and look at them to see if they were broken, torn, or damaged.  In front of me, I had two boxes, the one to my right was where I needed to put the items that were re-usable and which were to be put on the shelves to sell once more. The box to my left was where all the broken items and items that couldn’t be re-sold went. I asked the elderly man who was named Martin how many boxes of donated goods did the center receive per day, and he told me that it varied day to day, that they could receive up to thirty boxes. The Ozanam warehouse (the biggest St-Vincent-de-Paul warehouse of the region) would load up trucks, and send equal amount of donations to each center in the morning of each day. I completed eight boxes before heading off and looking around the center. When I gave my name to volunteer, I told the volunteer team manager about the project I was doing and how I wanted to see every aspect of the center to better my knowledge and understanding of the center. She had told me that I could nosy around as long as I helped out. When I went around the sales floor, it was crowded there was so much material on display that you had a hard time moving. Some of the clothing and shoes were just put on a rack or shelf, and you had to look and plow through the pile to find what you liked. The following video is a Youtube video to show how the front store of the center looks like: While I was in the front of the store, I spoke to three clients. The first was a retired business man who enjoyed shopping at the center because he felt as if he was encouraging young artist of the region: ``I like coming and looking at the art, sometimes young artist come and donate old paintings from school projects or drawings that they did in art class. I like buying art work because it’s not expensive, and because it encourages our young artist to do more. Sometimes when I see them give their art, I tell them that I appreciate it, and I encourage them to continue``. The second client I spoke too was a single mother who bought clothes for her younger children: `` I work forty hours a week, and I need to pay my bills, school, and food for me and my kids. Sometimes I don’t have the money or luxury to go out and buy clothes or toys at brand name stores, so I often come here and buy clothes and toys for my kids.  The material here is still in good condition, and sometimes you just have to provide for your family by any means possible``. The third client I spoke to was a college student who came from out of the region to study in Lanaudière. He told me that he came to the center to buy second hand furniture for his apartment, He told me that he rather spend less money on furniture and keep more to pay for food and school books. After speaking to these clients, I ran in to one of the other college students who was also volunteering at the center. The student’s name was Johnathan, and he was a social science student at the Cegep regional de L’Assomption. I told him about the volunteer project that I was doing, and I asked him if he was also doing a school project. He told me that he had to do a research paper for his humanities class about youth. He decided to volunteer to show that young people are willing to help out for there community for free without trying to get a profit out of it. After our conversation, I went back to working in the back store.  I had finished my day of volunteering around 14h45, I said my goodbyes to the caring people that I had met, and that was how my volunteer experience finished. Having already volunteered at a food drive last year, I had made an idea of how much these people cared and were willing to help people in the community, but after my experience at the St-Vincent-de-Paul.  Some of the workers volunteer up to thirty hours a week at the center. I am truly amazed at the willingness and dedication these people have towards their community.


The St-Vincent-de-Paul center likes to give back to their community. I volunteered during Easter week, the center had a special; promotion for children. For five dollars parents could buy their children a box with a toy, a chocolate, and a coloring book for an Easter present. During the summer, the center holds garage sales around the region.  At the end of May in my hometown of Charlemagne, the center holds a garage sale outside of the community center. The day is festive with a barbecue and inflatable slides and games available through the day. Finally, the center closes of the year with a volunteer supper to thank all the volunteers who dedicated their time to help their community. Last December, Montreal’s newly appointed Mayor, Denis Coderre, was a special guest at the evening. Mr. Coderrre graciously expressed his gratitude towards all those who volunteered for the center.


In conclusion, I enjoyed my experience at the center. Leading up to my volunteering, I read and summarized a lot of articles about teens who volunteered in their community to get a sense of what other students my age do to make a difference in  their community. Although I didn’t start a tennis club to fight obesity or start a cancer group at my high school, I feel honored and glad to help my community. Last December, the St-Vincent-de-Paul center had the lowest amount of donations during its annual holiday food drive. Although the center was still able to give out food baskets, it still couldn’t help the number of families that they set out too. If you have a community center in your city or region, I encourage you to donate used items or the things you don’t use. I also encourage all those who read this post to strongly consider volunteering in your community. Not so long ago, I wasn’t so thrilled about the idea of working for free, but after I volunteered a few times, my mind-set about the matter rapidly changed as I saw how much I was giving back to those less fortunate than I. You can’t imagine how a little time donated or a small effort given freely from a person could have a huge impact in someone else’s life and how gratifying that could be. To conclude this post here is a video of me speaking about my volunteer experience at the center:


Hey, I think that this topic is really pertinent in our society because we often don't realize how much food is actually needed to feed those who can't afford to feed themselves. More importantly, a lot of people forget that people still go hungry when it isn't christmas. We are encouraged to give during the holiday season, but we often forget to give some food donations during the rest of the year because it isn't as advertised. Therefore, I think that we should continue to ask for food donations throughout the year because people are always hungry, and the benefits of having a population that is not underfed far outweigh the loss of the one or two cans of food you take out of your pantry.

First off, congratulations on putting yourself out there and volunteering at this organization. It is fun to see that you went and help others that are in some kind of economic despair and in need of help. I had never heard of this organization before, but what they do seems awesome. As a lot of my work has been about homelessness and how to solve it, I truly believe the St-Vincent-de-Paul Center offers an interesting way of helping the cause. Great work!