With an ever-increasing demand for services, the Medford St. Vincent de Paul organization is looking to expand.
Bob Mitkus, past president and volunteer for the group, said it has been in its present facility on Jones Road since 1985.
Then, in 1991, they tore down the greenhouse (the building used to be a flower shop) and made an addition.
This expansion project, which looks to cost about $1 million, was started in 2007. It will double the size of the present building.
Mitkus said there is a need for more space for the thrift store. Most of the St. Vincent de Paul’s funding comes from the store.
He also said there is a need for space for the ministry to provide privacy when helping guests. And the food pantry also needs more space.
To pay the cost of the expansion, Mitkus explained they have $600,000 set aside from benefactors over the years. The remaining $400,000 will come from construction loans, a mortgage, and a fundraiser through parish St. Mary of the Lakes.
While a Roman Catholic entity, the organization doesn’t answer to the pastor.
“The pastor totally supports us in this endeavor,” Mitkus said. “Hopefully through donations we can minimize the amount of money we have to borrow.”
He said that over the last three years need has increased, with many facing foreclosure because they can’t pay their mortgage.
“What we like to do is keep the family in the home,” Mitkus said, noting they will help with rent or mortgages.
“We’re a hand up not a hand out,” he said. “We try to help people through the hard times.”
Mitkus said the need for food has grown as have utilities.
“This time of year shutoff notices happen every week,” he said. The organization tries to either prevent shutoff of utilities or pay to get them turned on again, especially when children are involved.
Clients don’t need to be from parish or Roman Catholic. The Medford St. Vincent de Paul services Browns Mills, Pemberton, Medford, Medford Lakes, and Moorestown.
It usually services 130 families a month with food.
Mitkus said need is cropping up in unexpected areas, like affluent Medford Lakes.
“It’s hitting everybody,” he said of the economy.
Mitkus is looking for the expansion to be done by June 2012. He said they will invite Bishop of Trenton David O’Connell to dedication since he is a Vincentian priest.
“The most challenging is seeing people in despair and trying to help them,” Mitkus said. “That’s challenging for us because we pray with them, we sit with them, we try to help them through their hard times and sometimes we can’t.”
While not a social welfare organization nor a social service organization, St. Vincent de Paul can refer clients to other places.
Mitkus said another challenge is also helping families with children who have no heat nor hot water.
What’s rewarding is seeing helping people in their homes with their utilities paid, he said.
“Our reward comes from ourselves as Vincentians through our friendship and spirituality and praying together,” Mitkus said.