February 16, 2018

On the first Friday of each month, St. Vincent de Paul Ministry Committee members prepare, serve and clean up meals for guests. From left: Sister Barbara Gfeller, Associate Juanita Saldivar, Sister Mary Sullivan, Tom Somerville and Margaret Gavette. Photo by Scott McMullen.

Located along a wide bend in the Columbia River, The Dalles, OR gets its share of cold, wet and windy weather. When a group of residents recognized how difficult the winter season was for their homeless neighbors, they decided to respond.

Collaborating with St. Vincent de Paul in downtown The Dalles, a committee formed in 2010 to find ways to help. The result was the Warming Place, a haven of hospitality where people without shelter can find a welcome, a meal and a safe place to sleep. The Warming Place is one of the beneficiaries of the Sisters of the Holy Names Ministry Grants program, which provides financial assistance to a wide variety of ministries in which Sisters are involved.

Sister Barbara Gfeller, who serves as secretary to the St. Vincent de Paul Warming Place Committee, and Associate Mary Beth Thouvenel report that in 2016-17 the ministry served 903 guests, with an average of 10 guests per night. The Warming Place is now in its seventh season.

Serving others with kindness and care fits squarely into the Holy Names Sisters’ commitment to provide hospitality. This commitment thrives at the Warming Place, as those who host freely share God’s love for all.

In addition to serving hot meals three nights a week, the St. Vincent de Paul dining room is open on cold nights from mid-November to mid-March to shelter people in need. Volunteers remove the tables and set up cots with blankets for the guests.

St. Vincent de Paul also operates a food bank twice a week, serving over 250 people on a monthly basis. In addition to Sr. Barbara, the volunteers include Sister Mary Sullivan and Associates Lois Dunsmore and Juanita Saldivar.