Saint Vincent de Paul food distribution

By Stefano DiPietrantonio - email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Big numbers of people turned out early Tuesday morning at Saint Vincent De Paul's distribution Center in Cincinnati, hoping for a free turkey and holiday gift basket.

But so many showed up, more than 800 folks, the charity had to shut its doors and send people home with nothing.

The hard workers at Saint Vincent De Paul say it is never easy to tell anyone there is no more help available. And it's not just for Thanksgiving. In these tough economic times, its every day.

You could see it in the sign on the front door at Saint Vincent De Paul's pantry on Bank Street. It read there were no more food baskets or turkeys left, and that the staff was sorry for any inconvenience it may have caused anyone who'd come looking for a good meal.

"We just had to close the gate," said Saint Vincent De Paul's Executive Director, Liz Carter.

More than 800 people waited in line, some had been there since four Tuesday morning and by Noon, Saint Vincent's had to turn people away.

"What makes it the one that makes it through and the one that's standing right behind them that's where you say this is it?," said Carter.

It only took about three hours to run out of food baskets and turkeys and in the charity's pantry, it's a constant struggle to keep their shelves full.

Look beyond what is left of a wall of corn flakes or go past the palettes of peanut butter. Shelves are empty. Even in a city known for it's chili, there was very little of that too.

"We're here to help people and you can't help somebody if you're beating 'em down like prove it, show it," said Carter referring to their stringent screening process. The charity makes 8-thousand home visits a year and sometimes people have nice stuff, like a blackberry or new, high-end shoes.

"It just makes you so hard towards them and so suspicious and so cold," Carter said.

It is estimated one in ten people try to cheat the system.

"A lot of times that's a vestige of what somebody's life was, there are a lot of people we're seeing now that a year ago they were making it, they were doing ok," Carter said. "Yes, you're still gonna look like us, but you're in such a position you need the help."

Carter said most of the people they help are living right on the edge. not homeless, rather they are the working poor.

"They don't have a good paying job, they have a low paying job, they need every hour, they don't have a savings account, it's paycheck to paycheck, there's no health insurance, they're driving old cars, they are barely just getting along," said Carter.

So Saint Vincent De Paul relies on a network of volunteers to keep these shelves full, of hope.

"We are surrounded by people that are just barely making it and so once a year we can give 'em a Thanksgiving dinner let's do it, let's do it," Carter said.

Saint Vincent De Paul said they are always looking for volunteers and help from churches and private groups.

They were especially grateful to one family who made a difference, by stopping by and dropping off fifty turkeys as a gift to any families who needed them.

Saint Vincent De Paul said this is a sign, that even in the toughest times, people do not want to see their neighbors go hungry.

Copyright 2009 WXIX-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.