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In Season Of Plenty, Still Plenty Of Need

Roslyn and Xavier Guyette. Roslyn Guyette is a member of St. Vincent de Paul.

It’s the holidays, and that means lots of shopping, planning, preparing and general good will towards our fellow human beings.  That goodwill can come in the form of a smile at the checkout, or it can be something much more substantial, valuable & often necessary.

In this season of commercial consumerism, it's easy to forget that there are many in need in our community.  Luckily there are organizations and people here to help people like Roslyn Guyette.

"Yes, I'm a parishioner at Nativity of Our Lord, Catholic Church which is just off of campus and I'm also a member of the St. Vincent DePaul conference. Which is at Nativity of Our Lord."

The Society of St. Vincent DePaul is a worldwide organization that helps those in need.  In our community, they provide person to person assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions, dentures and other emergency needs, among other activities.

We've all seen people asking for help on the corner, people with signs, people asking if you have any spare change. Sometimes we roll down the window, talk to them, or share some money or a granola bar, sometimes we don't even look at them. No matter what our reaction there is a temptation to judge them based on how they look, and, according to Guyette, those assumptions and judgments are usually wrong.

"I think frequently when we see someone in need, like a homeless person we’re very critical because they have a cell phone or they have a nice jacket on, or their shoes look fine. And so there is a tendency to wonder why they are in need and begging on the roadside, but they’ve probably being to a shelter and received those shoes, free of charge, and a jacket that was donated by someone else.  So I don't think what they're wearing or how they hold them self is an indicator of how much in need they really are."

You’ve probably thrown in a few bucks in a kettle or two in front of your favorite store this holiday season. Which is great.  If you want to do a little more Guyette says, there's a way to do that too.

"People are very nervous about handing out money to someone on the road side.  Which is understandable, because you want to know that your money is maybe being used for something that you would want it to be used for.  So a solution to that would be to carry gift cards with you for fast food restaurants so that you know you could hand a $5 gift certificate rather than $5 that you are more concerned about what would be bought with that money."

Along with the good feeling she gets from helping people with food, clothing and shelter, Roslyn has also collected some interesting stories, not to mention some exciting invitations

"There were two gentlemen, they were going up to one of the Dakotas to work in an oil field I think. And they were going to ride the rails and they said if I went with them they would look after me, I would belong to them because they would tie a piece of fabric to my wrist, which indicated don't touch her but I felt like at my age I probably shouldn't be doing that sort of thing and I think my husband would have had something to say also.  But, forty years ago that would be have been very exciting."

It’s a myth that most homeless live on the streets and sleep in shelters.  It’s a myth that most don’t take care of themselves, and that they’re fine with being homeless.  What’s not a myth is that there are lots of ways you can help someone on the street in need -food, gift cards, batteries, clothing, cash.  All of these are good to give, and someone needs it. 

More information and organizations:

St Vincent De Paul NW Florida

United Way Escambia County

Homeless Shelter Resources- local and statewide

Local Bill Payment Assistance

Salvation Army Pensacola

Loaves & Fishes

Ronald McDonald House Charities

More resources


Joe Vincenza has been working in public radio since 1984, doing any number of jobs at a variety of stations around the country. As Program Director at WUWF, a position he's held since arriving in Pensacola in 2000, his job now focuses on making sure the station sounds as good as it can, both in content and in technical quality. He's also the guy listeners should talk to when there is something they don't like, or something they do. Contact: 850.473.7451 or joe@wuwf.org.