Swelling in service: St. Vincent de Paul Society looks to expand food pantry, thrift store as need increases
By Sadie Hunter
Dee Ricciardi says her job as president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society has been a career in the making.
Her mother ran a similar organization out of their home in Marion when she was a child, and in a lifetime with jobs helping others, Ricciardi said her previous jobs and experiences led up to her becoming president of SVDP in July 2013. She now works full time leading the nonprofit that served ### and gave away more than $800,000 in food in 2015.
For more than 20 years, the organization was run out of a small building just around the corner at 1355 S. 10th St. before opening its current 10,000-square-foot facility – a former nursing home – in September 2013 at 1391 Greenfield Ave. Before that, it was run out the garage of the then-pastor of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.
Recently, SVDP put together a five-year business plan to meet increasing demand.
“Our plan is, we are going to move forward with making this building what we need it to be, and then finding another spot for the food pantry, whether we build or find a spot to rent or something,” Ricciardi said. “What we’re really looking for is, does somebody have some space?”
She said the organization is ready and willing to partner with other organizations and entities for the expansion, and SVDP estimates they need approximately 4,000 to 5,000 square feet to operate the food pantry in a separate facility from the thrift store.
The increased space would allow for a loading and unloading area, more restrooms, a proper waiting area and walk-in freezers and refrigerators to hold the perishable items offered in the pantry, like meats, cheeses, eggs, dairy and more. Currently, the back of the food pantry houses multiple standard-size fridges and freezers for storage.
“We continue to increase,” Ricciardi said. “I don’t even known how many more people we could possibly push through here if we don’t get a facility.
She said change wouldn’t just mean an expansion of space, but also an expansion of hours. Right now, the store and pantry are open five days each week in the morning and early afternoon and closed Tuesdays and Fridays.
“When we move, we’re going to operate different hours. The pantry will remain the same, but the store will open longer,” she said.
Ricciardi said she attributes some of the growth to not relying solely on donations, although that’s where much of the stock for the food pantry comes from, something many other local pantries don’t do.
“We buy the stuff if it doesn’t come in as a donation. I think our organization has grown because we have a wider variety. One of the things we’ve worked on is having a balanced nutritional diet,” she said. “We own this building. We own our truck. So we pay for utilities, insurance and upkeep, but everything else that we bring in buys food. When we moved from the other building, we (started doing) literally 10 times the volume here than we did, and that was from day one. We moved in, and it flipped.”
Ricciardi said at the old facility, a really busy month would have services approximately 119 families. Today, in the current facility, Ricciardi said a standard Wednesday, the busiest day, can yield service to 130 families or more.
“We do have a lot of seniors as well, so if they save $15 or $30 here, they can buy that (prescription) at the end of the month that they couldn’t have before. Our common client is someone who works and has a job, but they’re just on the edge, and it makes a difference,” she said. “We try to help the poor, and so we ask if they fit that. We’ve never turned anyone away for food, but we really are set up to help the poor.”
St. Vincent de Paul’s volunteer efforts
The SVDP thrift store and food pantry’s accomplishments within Noblesville and all of Hamilton Co. come from the work volunteers and no paid staff.
Ricciardi herself is a volunteer.
“I’ve been a volunteer at St. Vincent De Paul since before we were a building, when we worked out of the church, the garage of Our Lady of Grace,” she said. “I coordinate the efforts for the store. I’m like the general manager of the store and the general manager of the food pantry, and then I also do the stuff that we need to do to stay as the organization.”
Overall, Ricciardi said the organization is approximately 450 strong with volunteers.
“On a weekly basis, we have 160-ish (volunteers) that are real regulars. Then we have another 160 that are more once-in-awhile (volunteers) … It just takes a lot to do it. Most are involved in the store because it takes more to operate it than the food pantry. We have three people that work on each shift for the assistance job, and then there are six to eight people who work each shift in the food. So, we have usually 10 to 12 regularly here to operate the food and assistance side. Then we have another 12 to 15 that operate the store.”
For more, or to apply to volunteer, visit www.svdpnoblesville.org.
History of St. Vincent de Paul
- 1994 – SVDP is established as a nonprofit organization.
- 2013, July – Ricciardi takes over as president of SVDP.
- 2013, September – SVDP’s current facility at 1391 Greenfield Ave. is opened.
- 2016, February – SVDP announces future plans to expand its thrift store and food pantry.