History The International Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in Paris, France, in 1833. Father John Timon, while visiting family in Ireland saw a chapter of this new charity in action. He was so inspired that he formed the first conference of the society in the United States in his home diocese of St. Louis in 1845. In 1847, when Father Timon moved to Buffalo, New York, to become the first bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, one of his first acts was to create a Society conference here.
Buffalo For 173 years and the terms of 14 bishops, the Buffalo Diocesan Council has been serving people in need in seven of the eight counties in the diocese. Through the 1848 cholera epidemic, the 1918 flu pandemic, through the American Civil War, through two world wars, and through the current Covid-19 pandemic, through the good times and bad, the generosity of our community has allowed the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to live its mission, serving those who need it most. Currently, the diocesan Council is headquartered in a building at 1298 Main St., Buffalo, where a staff of 20 administers the Council functions and special works. Under the umbrella of the central Council, the region is divided into seven districts of 3 to 12 conferences — Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie East, Erie West, Erie North, Niagara, and Genesee/Orleans. Within these districts are 62 parish-based conferences in a total of more than 700 members.
Independent The diocesan Council is an independent charity, independently, Incorporated as a 501(c)3. We are not part of the official Catholic Church nor are we a part of the Buffalo diocese. We serve with the blessing and support of the Bishop and the pastors of the individual parishes where we have conferences. Based in our downtown Buffalo headquarters building are two special works: a discount store and the dining room.
Discount Our discount store at 1298 Main St., is the only remaining department store on Main Street within the city of Buffalo. It is a full range department store: for brand-new bedding, appliances, large and small, furniture, clothing, various media, including books, DVDs, CDs, various household goods, and much more. Open six days week, we welcome shoppers from the general public as well as people in need who come to our volunteers for help. Those people are given vouchers to shop for what they need without charge. Much of our inventory of clothing and other soft goods comes from blue donation bins placed at 80 locations around the region, mostly Catholic parishes.
Dining Our dining room welcomes anyone who walks in the door from the general public. In normal times, we bring our guests inside our dining room and serve them at tables. Our staff and volunteers serve them a hearty meal on china with silverware. Once serving is done, our volunteers sit with them for a friendly conversation. Currently open four days a week, we were able to serve the public throughout the pandemic on a “to go” basis.
Home Visit The core of our work. However, is the home visit. Individuals in need, come to us, referred by family, friends, neighbors or by government, corporate, not for profit agencies and tell us of their needs. Our staff or volunteers are then assigned cases to follow up. In pairs, they visit people in their homes at their convenience, listen to their story, and determine how they can help. Our volunteers can write vouchers for these people to shop in the store, they may help with a utility or rent payment, they may furnish gift cards for groceries or gasoline, or they may bring a bag of groceries. Sometimes what these people need is beyond our resources and our volunteers, experienced in the network of agencies in town, may refer them to other agencies for what they need. Many times, this visit will result in providing people the help to get through a time of crisis and sometimes our assistance changes peoples’ lives.
1st Oldest continuously operating charity in Western New York
2nd Conference of the International Society established in the United States in 1847
62 Parish-based conferences in 7 seven districts in 6 WNY counties
63,455 Meals served in our Buffalo Main Street dining room at in 2019 (July 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020)
90,000 People assisted by our 700 volunteers in 2019
Or you may mail your check to:
St. Vincent de Paul – SOS
1298 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14209