The St Vincent de Paul Society is probably best known for two things in Australia: providing food, clothing, emergency accommodation and other necessary items to people experiencing disadvantage; and their network of Vinnies Shops that sell quality donated clothing at great prices to help raise funds for the Society and help divert textile waste from landfill.
"However, the Society's scope is much broader," St Vincent de Paul NSW CEO, Jack de Groot said. "Its network of conferences is where our members provide help on a local level in hundreds of communities around the country.
"They're the first to help when disaster strikes - be it something very personal or something that affects a large area like a natural disaster.
"Similarly, our staff operate Vinnies Support Centres and hubs throughout NSW that provide everything from food and clothes to casework and advocacy."
The St Vincent de Paul Society also provides short-term accommodation for people experiencing homelessness at places like the Matthew Talbot Hostel. The Society has a network of domestic violence crisis centres, operates long-term social and affordable housing, and provides health services specifically tailored to meet the needs of people facing disadvantage.
"To reduce marginalisation and increase community access, we do this in a number of ways from providing specialised housing services to supported employment, with assistance tailored to each individual's needs," Mr de Groot added.
"The Society also has a strong interest in recycling - we have our own brand re/CYCLE that uses recycled textiles to create towels, cushions, and rugs. It also operates Bag 'o' Rags, which creates rags for industrial use from textile waste that would otherwise go to landfill.
"The Society operates seven Return & Earn facilities that have processed more than 200 million drink containers for recycling since the first one opened about two years ago."
The Society began in 1833, when Frederic Ozanam and his friends, a group of university students who wanted to put their faith into action, began delivering firewood to people in Paris who could not afford to heat their homes. Over a few short decades, the Society became an international movement.
It arrived in Australia in 1881 when Charles Gordon O'Neill, an engineer originally from Scotland, set up the first St Vincent de Paul Conference at St Patrick's Church Hill, Sydney.
The Society is named for St Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of charitable associations. During his life, he was inspired to work with people who had been marginalised.
"In 2022, the Society will be celebrating 100 years of Vinnies Shops operating in NSW," Mr de Groot said. "In the century of retail activity by the Society, Vinnies Shops have helped fund our services for people experiencing disadvantage.
"The Society has spent the last two years adapting to the pandemic. Staff working from home, our Vinnies Shops that have needed to close during lockdown and the way we provide assistance has changed to ensure it is done in a COVID-safe manner but we are still here and still helping wherever we're needed.
"In some instances, COVID has impacted our ability to raise funds for services, particularly with the extended closures of Vinnies Shops.
"It has also made recruiting volunteers harder so we want to build our volunteer numbers and launch new looks for Vinnies Shops."
The community can help the St Vincent de Paul Society through cash donations at https://donate.vinnies.org.au/ or volunteer their time, either at a Vinnies Shop or at one of their services.
"Volunteers say helping the disadvantaged or marginalised is a great feeling," he said. "And at Vinnies Shops they gain valuable experience of working in a retail environment."
People can donate quality clothes, providing the disadvantaged with clothing and helping Vinnies Shops raise money for their services - at clothing donation bins, Vinnies Shops and the Society's Conferences.
"The Society helps people experiencing poverty and homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol dependence, and people with disability," he added.
"With the housing affordability crisis and the growing gap between rich and poor, please give generously so we can continue to support people who need help."