The ST. VINCENT DEPAUL SOCIETY of Cleveland, established in June 1865, is part of an international association (formed in Paris in 1833) of volunteer Catholic laypersons dedicated to serving the poor. The first American branch was established in St. Louis in Nov. 1845; the local branch was created at ST. JOHN CATHEDRAL by Bp. AMADEUS RAPPE.
Based in a belief in personal dignity, the Vincentians work on an individual basis at the parish level. According to a 1914 directory of Cleveland charities, the St. Vincent DePaul Society aimed to promote religious instruction, distribute books, visit the sick, and provide food, clothing, and fuel to the needy. In the 1920s and 1930s, the society added more coordination among independent parish councils and with other agencies, professional social work methodology, and its first paid staff worker (1921).
In 1931 it opened a thrift store to provide inexpensive clothing and furniture and organized an Institutional Visitation Committee to visit the hospitalized and institutionalized, programs which still operated 60 years later. In addition, the Vincentians helped develop the Big Brothers (see BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTER MOVEMENT), the BOY SCOUTS, the Catholic Apostolate to the Blind (1948), the Catholic Resettlement Council (1949), and Catholic Counseling (1965), among other programs. Services have also included scholarships for PARMADALE residents, legal advice for the poor, and burials for people dying in public institutions. The St. Vincent DePaul Society spent over $51,000 to aid 907 families in 1949; in 1982, its 1,100 volunteers distributed nearly $2 million in aid and helped 28,699 families in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. It also operated 44 hunger centers, which served 444,000 meals in 1982. The society's offices were located at 1027 Superior Ave. in 1989.
After 1989, the hunger centers were operated by CATHOLIC CHARITIES, but the society continued to provide services and aid for increasing numbers of needy Clevelanders. In 1994, with thrift stores in 6 locations, St. Vincent's 1,455 volunteers, working at 152 parish centers, helped 58,600 families and distributed about $1.5 million in aid, and raised an additional $1.7 million in aid through its food and clothing drives.
See also WELFARE/RELIEF.