Who Are We?
For over sixty years, a skeleton crew and an army of volunteers have helped some of the most vulnerable in our midst—the poor and homeless—through donated goods and charitable works.
The Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store was the brainchild of Father Francis Trotter, a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in the mid-1950s. With the help of a group of prominent, local businessmen who provided financial support, a house was purchased at 425 E. 19th St. in 1954, and the thrift store and homeless center were incorporated as a non-profit organization.
In 1958, the St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center had already outgrown its location and the thrift store was relocated to its current location at 300 Baker Street. An addition to the thrift store was completed in 1964. In the early days, sandwiches and coffee were handed out to the hungry who ate in a small waiting room or on an outside patio.
In 1968, Father Ralph Belluomini took over as director of the Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul center and remained there until 2000. Today, the center's hall is named in his honor.
The mortgage was paid in full, and a loan-note burning ceremony was held at Wool Growers on September 27, 1973, the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul.
In 2000, property next to the store was purchased for the Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center, and the following year all three parcels merged into one. In 2005, thanks to a grant from then Mercy HealthCare West (now Dignity Health), a mobile unit was purchased to serve as a makeshift dining hall.
A call to action in 2007 dramatically changed the face and aesthetics of the center. In January 2007, the Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul Society’s board of directors began exploring the possibility of expanding. St. Francis of Assisi Parish pledged its support for an improvement plan for the grounds and facilities.
An influx of donations financed the building of four bathrooms, two showers, a covered patio, and the installation of lush landscaping. In December 2010, just three days after Christmas, the final stage of the ambitious project, an industrial-sized kitchen and a beautiful hall, opened. Rather than sleeping in the shadows of warehouses and alleyways, visitors can now spend part of their day in a park-like setting and secure environment.
The center's days of handing out sandwiches are almost a bygone era. On a daily basis, around 300 men and women receive a hot breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, as well as mail, clothing, and hygiene kits, from the center.
Each year, the Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul Society holds a barbecue fundraiser in the fall in an effort to raise money for the homeless center and heighten the community's awareness of its existence.
No one could have anticipated the swell of support that would come from the annual, fall barbecue. Over 800 people attend the event each year and thousands of dollars are raised to help the poor and needy in our community.
Aside from the money that is raised at the barbecue each autumn, the Bakersfield St. Vincent de Paul Society has no real source of income to support the thousands of people who come to them for help each year. We rely completely on the generosity of individuals, organizations, and businesses to assist the poor and homeless. St. Vincent de Paul receives no government funding. You can remember a deceased loved one by donating in their name as a memorial. If you want to remember someone who is living, an honorarium can be accepted in the form of a donation. Also, bequeathments in your last will and testament are most appreciated. Donations can be made in person, online, or via mail. For more information, please visit our donation page.