St. Vincent de Paul expands furniture program, looks for drivers

NORTH CHARLESTON — If you have a good driving record and can handle a 20-foot truck full of furniture, you are just the person St. Vincent de Paul needs.

Msgr. Martin T. Lauglin, administrator of the Diocese of Charleston, donated warehouse space across from St. John Church to the charitable organization for use in their furniture program, said Tom Couture, who is one of the program’s coordinators.

The warehouse is full of furniture, as is a second storage space donated by a parishioner from Divine Redeemer Church in Goose Creek.

The problem, Couture said, is they do not have volunteers from that area that can drive the U-Haul-style truck or help carry furniture, and he is looking for help.

The North Charleston warehouse opened in August 2008. The first client was a woman with AIDS who had turned her life around. She received a sofa, chair, twin beds and a queen-size bed.

“We want to keep their lives moving in a forward direction,” Couture said.

Applications are sent to the society from about 28 other agencies that work with the poor, such as My Sister’s House and Crisis Ministry, said Bob Newton, another coordinator.

Newton was one of the founders of the furniture program. He said it started about 12 years ago when he and another society member were visiting clients and noticed that, often, they did not have even a chair to sit on.

They started storing donated furniture in garages and delivering it with pick-up trucks. Newton said some of the people they were helping were clients of East Cooper Community Outreach. When ECCO built a new facility about four years ago in Mount Pleasant, they included a warehouse for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s furniture program.

In the years since they have opened the warehouse, the society has grown from serving 272 clients in 2006 to over 600 clients this past year.

“We’re trying to help people turn their lives around and start from a new beginning to progress to a better point,” Newton said.

St. Vincent de Paul members credit their success here to community members and everyone from Christ Our King, St. Benedict and Stella Maris churches.

Couture said they need the same sort of joint effort to make the North Charleston venture a success.

“We don’t have a big advertising budget,” he said. “We do have the power of the big guy working with us.”

Every day, Couture said, they see the evidence of the small miracles of God. A little old lady will call looking for a rocker, but they won’t have one. Then within a couple of days, someone donates a rocker. It happens all the time, he said.

He hopes God will put the word out for volunteers in North Charleston.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul prefers that clients, or the agencies that represent them, pick up the items they need themselves, Couture said.

However, he added, truly needy people rarely have access to a truck, or even friends that are capable of helping. This is when they need volunteers.

To help St. Vincent de Paul call (843) 849-9220 ext. 26.