Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., commissions the new St. Vincent de Paul Special Works Conference’s members, including its president, Margaret More, and vice presidents in the background. Jeff Bruno photo
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., commissions the new St. Vincent de Paul Special Works Conference’s members, including its president, Margaret More, and vice presidents in the background. Jeff Bruno photo
Margaret More couldn’t hide the ear-to-ear grin behind her face mask as her eyes lit up during the blessing and commissioning ceremony tied to the St. Vincent de Paul furniture ministry she began 10 years ago.

She didn’t have to, either, as she pushed her mask down, saying “I do” to the question put before her by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

Photo Gallery: Bishop Blesses Vincent's Legacy Furniture Ministry Location

“Margaret, as you begin your term of leadership as president of this outreach conference … are you prepared to reach out with compassion and love to the poor and to all those whom you lead?” the Bishop, a Vincentian himself, asked on the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul.

Bishop O’Connell was joined by priests of the Diocese and dozens of SVDP parish conference members Sept. 27 in Wall Township as he blessed the new warehouse for Vincent’s Legacy and commissioned a new, independent SVDP Special Works Conference and officers.

“This gives me a great opportunity to meet so many wonderful Vincentians,” Bishop O’Connell said. “St. Vincent said one thing that has always stayed with me. ‘Don’t try to preach the Gospel until you feed their bellies.’ There’s so much truth in that. When the poor are served and their needs are met, it’s then that they’ll be attentive to what you have to say.

“So, my fellow Vincentians, I offer you the spirit of St. Vincent. Tap into that spirit as you do your good work,” he said, moments later stepping into the new Vincent’s Legacy warehouse and blessing it with holy water.

‘It’s About Home’

The Vincent’s Legacy furniture ministry was approved by the Trenton Council Board in 2016 and collects gently used furniture donations and pairs them with needy families. Volunteers visit the homes of individuals in Ocean and Monmouth Counties to help select the best items to fit each family’s style and needs. It is an expansion of the Selective Seconds home décor and furniture store in Belmar, launched under the direction of the SVDP conference in St. Rose Parish and More, who was a parishioner at the time. The store’s proceeds benefit the working poor in the community.

With Vincent’s Legacy’s revenue needs going beyond any one individual conference, it was decided this year to launch the SVDP Special Works Conference, which is independent of any parish – a first in the Diocese of Trenton. It is in the process of becoming an official 501(c)(3).

“Vincent’s Legacy, the first time I saw it, I was so amazed. It’s not just about furniture; it’s about home,” said Brenda Rascher, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services. “They help the family recognize that you just don’t need a bed, you need a bed and a dresser or a lamp. I think families are hesitant to ask for all of what they might need. Whereas this program goes and helps identify what they need, even if they haven’t asked for it.”

Joan Olden, president of the diocesan St. Vincent de Paul Society, said she was pleased to see Vincent’s Legacy move from a SVDP Trenton Council outreach to its own SVDP conference.

“When you become a conference, it goes beyond a special project. You encompass other things – spirituality, friendship, home visits. That Vincentian charism is being lifted – I’ve seen it already,” Olden said, speaking of its eight core members. “It’s the same group of people involved before it was a conference, but now it’s really become theirs, seeing their project grow.”

Without the support of any one parish, all involved are hopeful that Vincentians around the Diocese and others will help support the Special Works Conference and consider joining or volunteering.

Community Ties

Up until now, Vincent’s Legacy’s revenue stream has come from grants, donations and numerous creative sources to help cover the over $2,000-a-month rent. There has been a warehouse furniture sale, and some anonymous donors.

Last year, Vincent’s Legacy launched Handbags to Help, in which donated designer handbags are sold through Selective Seconds. That grew to include Seeds of Service, a community outreach effort born out of Brick’s Visitation Parish. Seeds of Service helps sell the handbags on their eBay site. By the end of 2019, over 300 designer handbags had been collected. But since COVID-19, the need for luxury items has declined as have monetary donations.

“What makes us different from a parish-based conference is that we don’t have a hotline where people can call for help,” said More, a parishioner of Precious Blood, Monmouth Beach. “We work with the local conferences, just like we have in past, to get needs met. With that, we also don’t have a source of income tied to one parish. However, us becoming a conference is a benefit in the concept of ‘twinning,’ where conferences help other conferences that may be in need financially.”

Speaking of helping others, the rent paid to house Vincent’s Legacy goes to a good cause too, More said. The furniture ministry has been housed on the historic Camp Evans complex since 2016; due to a leaky roof, space constraints and more, it has relocated a few doors down to a 7,500-square-foot, wide-open, barebones warehouse space. Days after the Bishop’s visit, volunteers from Habitat for Humanity helped paint the walls and do some sprucing up in the building, which is twice the size of its previous location.

The ministry rents the space from the Info Age Learning Center, which hosts numerous museums on site dedicated to preserving the area’s communications, computer and satellite technology and important World War II history.

“We are helping another nonprofit, which helps us feel good about the rent we pay,” More said, smiling.