Dignity Delivered in Small Boxes

The Cause

A major emphasis of the support the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul provides to our client-friends relates to promoting their dignity and giving them the capacity to help themselves. While we do provide some emergency food items to our clients, beyond that we endeavor to provide them with the key items necessary to be able to prepare food for themselves and their family. We do this through what we colloquially refer to as boxes of ‘smalls’, the contents of which comprise the essentials of what a family would need to have a functional kitchen.

While far from being an exhaustive list, some of the critical items included in these boxes are: dish sets, pots, baking sheets, kids/plastic dishes, frying pans, roaster pans, a toaster, cutlery, etc. As part of the home visits that our volunteers conduct with all new client-families, we do an assessment of their needs and as much as possible customize the items packed into the boxes of smalls to match. Where possible, we try to fill the boxes with donated goods that are in good condition from our donation distribution center. Because most of our clients have similar needs however, there are some items that we often do not have on hand and therefore have to purchase using grant funding or donated funds furnished to us. In addition, for safety reasons there are certain items (e.g., toasters, coffee makers) that we want to ensure are safe, clean and in good working order. These items are therefore more likely to be purchased.

To put some context behind our request, we typically provide 3-4 boxes of small items to each client-family we serve, depending on their specific needs and circumstances. Our direct cost to outfit a typical box averages out to $50, therefore our cost per client-family is about $150-200. Our internal statistics reveal that since January 2023, we responded to requests for help from 898 client-families (comprising 2419 people) by giving out 2758 boxes of smalls. This is in addition to furniture and other types of support we provide.

While furnishing these items to our clients is a normal part of our function, what is abnormal is the recent unprecedented growth in the demand for our help. As a consequence, in order to keep from either turning client-families away or providing them with only a portion of the items they require, we are seeking support to accommodate an additional 100 client-families. This represents the anticipated growth in demand for our help over the next year.

Who Will it Benefit?

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (Edmonton Area) serves the less fortunate in the Edmonton region, regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, political opinions, or any other identifiable characteristic. We seek to support and promote their dignity by serving with love, respect, justice and joy and most importantly - without judgment. We endeavor to give a hand up to those in need, allowing them to retain their dignity and pride as they struggle through crisis situations or difficult circumstances. We do this by assisting them to function as independently as possible and to help them stretch their financial resources to cover their necessities.

Our client-friends (and the direct beneficiaries of any grant funding) are a very diverse group, comprising refugees, new Canadians (or new Albertans), urban Indigenous, families recovering from financial setbacks or struggling with the increased cost of living, and people starting their lives over after escaping addiction and or abuse.