Central Oregonian Feature Article – Meeting the Need

Stepping up when the need is great

Ramona McCallister, December 08, 2020 (Central Oregonian)

One of Crook County's most important points of contact for folks who need food or housing assistance has seen a sharp increase in those needs this past year.

To say there has been an increase in need is a gross understatement, and for President of St. Vincent de Paul of Crook County, Charlie Kurtz, the need to become creative and problem solve is equally as important.

St. Vincent de Paul provides a food pantry for low-income individuals as well as emergency help for those needing temporary assistance.

Sharp increase in housing assistance during COVID

"One of the biggest things that has changed is what we call emergency help," commented Kurtz of the increase in need.

St. Vincent de Paul provides emergency help to low-income individuals needing temporary financial assistance with housing, emergency shelter, transportation or other needs. Last fiscal year, they assisted 166 adults and 161 children with $38,800 in financial aid. The demand for housing assistance increased from 70% the previous year to 84% this past year.

"Requests for emergency help increased dramatically due to the impact of COVID and the loss of jobs supporting low-income workers," pointed out Kurtz.

He said that up to one year ago, they averaged approximately $2,000 per month, except for a spike around Christmas. Now, they are up to $10,000 per month.

"This last year, ending September 30, we spent about $39,000 in emergency help, and 84% of it was housing—rent and utilities."

In October and November, they worked with the city to pay water bills for residents who were behind on their water bills. In October alone, they spent $12,600 in emergency help. City water bills accounted for $3,400 of the total, as the city started shutting off water to customers who were behind in their payments.

"The city sent us $8,000 in COVID relief funds and told their delinquent customers to come to us for assistance," added Kurtz. "We've paid the city $10,020 to get water services restored from September 1 to date."

Kurtz indicated that his concern now is keeping people in their homes – especially with the rent moratorium expiring the end of December.

"We work in partnership with NeighborImpact on rent and utility assistance," he said. "We ask folks to seek help from NeighborImpact first. NeighborImpact refers clients to us that don't meet the specific program requirements they administer."

Food pantry and volunteers

St, Vincent de Paul operates a food pantry that provided food to 700 low-income individuals last month. For the fiscal year just finished, they served 2,812 households with 7,154 individuals with enough food for five days, which equals 107,000 meals.

Households are eligible for food every two weeks. They receive non-perishable food weighing 40 pounds or more, based on the number of people in the household, plus two kinds of meat, eggs, milk and fruit, depending on availability.

"Guests enter a drive-thru in the parking lot at 1103 NE Elm St.," said Kurtz. "They are asked to stay in their car and wear face masks. A volunteer takes their information and posts it on a sticky note on their car's windshield. Three volunteers load their vehicle with food."

St. Vincent is able to provide their services with the help of generous volunteers in the community. Volunteers were designated as "essential workers" by the State of Oregon at the start of the pandemic. Many of their older volunteers stepped back, but younger volunteers stepped forward to fill the vacancies.

"We average 36 volunteers a month, who collectively worked 8,400 hours and donated 30,000 miles commuting to the pantry for work this past year," Kurtz said of his volunteers. "Volunteers are asked to commit to two to four hours a day, once a week. We could use a few strong volunteers to unload and stock 4,000 pounds of food each Monday. Please call our office if you are interested in helping."

He said that some of their best volunteers came to help because of their need to perform community service. They have several volunteers with physical or mental challenges who find a rewarding experience helping unload, sort or distribute food. These individuals are fortunate to have a friend or family member work alongside them.

Volunteers have also been instrumental in helping reach underserved folks in Crook County. At the urging of Virginia Hilderbrand, one of their board members, they started a mobile pantry outreach to RV or trailer parks in the Crook County area, delivering food boxes to people in need who did not drive or were afraid to visit their food pantry for fear that any help they might receive would be used against their application for permanent resident status.

Hilderbrand knows many underserved people in Prineville, and Kurtz said that she has routinely taken food to folks in several trailer parks in Prineville.

"She raised our awareness that many of these folks lost work because of COVID and weren't eligible for federal relief benefits or workman's compensation. At her urging, we started our Mobile Pantry outreach."

Hilderbrand is a graduate of University of Autonomy of Mexico, with a 1987 degree in surgery. She has been a St. Vincent de Paul volunteer since 2006.

"She feels strongly in helping those in need and has been a great motivator," said Kurtz. "We visited 10 parks, the most distant were Sun Rocks RV and Juniper Grove," Kurtz pointed out. "Visits dropped to once a month after school started. We plan to increase the visits to every two weeks."

In spite of increases in demand for services at the local SVDP, they paid forward to the St. Vincent de Paul Rogue Valley Council of Medford for people made homeless by the Almeda fire. Rogue Valley requested "twinning" donations from other Vincentians to purchase tiny houses to be set up in their parking lot to house some of the people made homeless by the Almeda fire.

"We received a $5,000 donation from the Bend SVDP Conference last year when we started back up and decided to pay the same amount forward to Rogue Valley Council," noted Kurtz.

Kurtz reported that the 2021 Business Plan for St. Vincent projects total expenses of $134,000, almost double last year's plan of $70,000. Demand for emergency help is expected to increase to $78,600: $10,000 per month for six months followed by $2,000 per month, as the effects brought on by COVID will hopefully subside. $6,600 is allocated to Redemption House Ministries to support the full-time operation of the women's shelter, which is a resource to direct women who come to St. Vincent de Paul seeking emergency shelter.

"The growth of our business plan was made possible, in part, due to the generosity of last year's donors, which enabled us to carry forward a balance of $44,530," stressed Kurtz. "We pray that our donors will continue their generosity in the coming year."

“Meat the Need” Benefits St. Vincent de Paul

500 Pounds of Beef to Support Our Community

This 2020 year has been especially hard on families who are suffering physical and economic hardship, and so we are profoundly grateful for the generous gift donated by the High Desert Livestock 4H Club.

As part of the Club’s “Meat the Need” community service project, SVdP received a black angus steer raised by Saul Nunez. The Club partnered with Quail Valley Angus Ranch & Butcher Boys which allowed our organization to have 500 pounds of ready-to-give cut and wrapped packages of prime beef.

The High Desert Livestock 4H Club is led by Dennis Hilderbrand and Mark & Casey McKinnon. The 4-H members are shown below (from L-R): Michael McKinnon, Ira McKinnon, Grace Flitner, Joann McKinnon, Jenny McKinnon, Easton Perrin, Cash Wells, Saul Nunez, Paisley Wood, Nehemiah Becker, Taylor Eschevarria and Seth Smith.

This “Meat the Need” 2020 project did exactly that and many in our community are grateful!

Donors Support Keeps Us Focused on Helping Those in Need

We very much appreciate the financial support donors have provided St. Vincent de Paul of Crook County during the Pandemic.  These donations have allowed volunteers and volunteer staff to stay focused on helping those in need.

Food Pantry business jumped in March, serving over 1,000 household members as the Pandemic shutdown hit home. However, as federal benefits flowed in, visits to the food pantry dropped off, declining to their lowest in May.

Inspired by Virginia Hilderbrand, a Board Member, we started delivering food directly to residents of local mobile home parks, starting the end of May.  Many were either not aware of our services or afraid to access them.  We are now back to providing food to over 1,000 people per month.  We have traveled to 7 mobile parks and plan to visit several more.

Demand for Emergency Services was highest in December and January, then trended down to very little in April.  Starting in May, demand picked up, and where it goes will depend on continuing federal and state benefits.  We work to fill gaps in rent relief not covered by State grants administered by Neighbor Impact.  Those seeking temporary shelter are mostly fleeing domestic violence.  We served 37 adults and 20 children in May and June.  We allocate $2,000 per month for Emergency Services.  When demand exceeds that amount, we are spending cash reserves or unexpected donations such as yours.

Thank you for your continuing support.

Charles H Kurtz

Message from the President

Message from the President

Maintaining our Food Pantry as an Essential Service for those in need

We are privileged to be able to maintain our Food Pantry as an Essential Service for those in need of food during this incredible time of disruption. Our operation has changed to maintain separation for both Guests and Volunteers. I am grateful for our new, younger Volunteers who have come forward to replace older Volunteers who’ve had to stay home to protect themselves.

NeighborImpact, our regional food bank, assures us they will provide us an ample supply of food to give to folks who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 as well as our regular, low income Guests.

I wish to acknowledge the tremendous support and mentoring I received from Tom MacDonald who stepped down as Treasurer and Board Member on April 1st. Tom’s business advice and expertise this past year put us in a firm financial position. Tom’s new role will be Advisor to the Board.

Elsa Hyder is our new Treasurer. She’s been retired 19 years. Her last position was Executive Assistant to the president of Pacific Racing Association.

Socorro (Cookie) Benton was promoted to Vice President of Operations in recognition of her dedication, hard work and leadership.

Food Pantry

Households are eligible for food every two weeks. They receive non-perishable food weighing forty pounds or more, based on number of people in the household, plus two kinds of meat, eggs, milk, and fruit, depending on availability.

Guests enter a Drive-thru off NE Loper Avenue between N Main and NE Elm streets. They are told to stay in their car. A volunteer takes their information and posts it on a sticky note on their car’s windshield. Three volunteers load their vehicle with food.

Our pantry is open 1-3 PM, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Guests are encouraged to come on their assigned day as determined by the first letter of their last name: Tuesday (A-G),
Wednesday (H-Q), Thursday (R-Z).

Emergency Services

We continue to assist folks needing help with rent, utilities, shelter, transportation, and propane. Please call 541-447-7662 to request assistance.


We rely on the generosity of donors to fund our operation which costs $5,000 per month. Please consider making a donation, either by mail or online at

Charles H. Kurtz

Volunteers work to get food out to guests

Thinking outside the box-or in this case outside the pantry

Story courtesy of the Central Oregonian

For volunteers and patrons at St. Vincent de Paul in Prineville, it was a busy first week of COVID-19 operation at the local Food Pantry.

"Food distribution moved outside to the parking lot just north of the pantry," said Charlie Kurta, president of Prineville SVDP. "Guests were directed to stay in their cars and enter the pantry queue off Northeast Loper Avenue."

Kurtz noted that at opening of business Thursday, cars were backed up on Northeast Loper Avenue waiting in line.

"For the week, 103 families received food boxes, which is close to our all-time weekly high," Kurtz said.

Volunteers started packing food boxes at 10 a.m. and loading them onto the pantry truck. By 12:30, the truck, fully loaded with 30-35 boxes of food, was moved into the parking lot. Large carts with apples, oranges, milk and coolers of frozen meat were stationed on north side of the truck in the shade. About 10 more food boxes were prepared during the afternoon to keep up with demand.

Guests were offered a choice of two meats, plus milk, fruit, and a food box of nonperishables sized to their family.

"Their cars were loaded in one to two minutes," said Kurtz. He noted that he felt like part of a pit crew at the racetrack, having watched "Ford vs. Ferrari."

"Gov. Kate Brown's office considers the network and its partners and programs essential locations," said Alicia Atalla-Mei, statewide network manager of the Oregon Food Bank. "Our operations, and that of our food distribution partners and meal sites, are exempt from both the restriction on gatherings of over 25 and orders that are restricting restaurants."

Kurtz said St. Vincent de Paul is in need of more volunteers and more shifts to alleviate the workload.

"Many volunteers who started packing food boxes at 10 a.m. stayed to distribute food in the afternoon," he said. "We need two shifts of volunteers: morning and afternoon."

He added that the nonprofit also needs younger backs to lift and place food boxes in guest's car seats.

In addition, food can be distributed in two hours. Opening hours will be shortened to 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

"This was week one of what may be week 26 or 52. We don't know, but we need to plan for the long haul," Kurtz concluded.

Hours of operation at SVDP:

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: 1 PM to 3 PM

Closed Saturdays

The Friends of St. Vincent de Paul Celebration was canceled last week because of COVID-19.

St. Vincent de Paul spent more than it took in December through February due to increased demand for emergency services. Operating the pantry and emergency services costs $5,000 per month. Monthly donations can be made by visiting, and clicking the Donate Now button or mailing a check to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Crook County, PO Box 545, Prineville.

Read this article on the Central Oregonian website --->