The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and
the Community Pharmacy
Founded in 1833 in Paris by Frederic Ozanam and six fellow students in response to a challenge to show what his Church does for the poor, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has spread to 131 countries with an active membership of over 600,000. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was introduced to the United States in 1845. The St. Vincent de Paul is usually associated as parish based groups (conferences) providing help in the form of housing assistance (help with rent and utilities), food, clothing and transportation to people in need in their geographic area regardless of religious affiliation. Those conferences are usually gathered into area councils.
In the early 1990s, many local conferences reported the same growing need to the Biloxi Council. Their conferences were asked with increasing frequency to help with prescriptions or in visits to individuals requesting other assistance, witnessed unfilled prescriptions. As medicine costs rose sharply in the 1990s, volunteer Vincentians were seeing more and more individuals who were forced to choose between food, shelter or the medicine they needed for their health. As a response to this growing need, the Biloxi Council under the leadership of Dr. Peter Pavlov, formed a “special works” of the Council in the form of the Community Pharmacy.
Although conceived by the Biloxi Council of St. Vincent de Paul in response to a community problem, the Pharmacy is independently incorporated – not under the governance of the St. Vincent de Paul or the Diocese of Biloxi Catholic Church. It does not ask applicant’s religious affiliation and has worked hard to be inclusive in its staffing and Board membership while striving to maintain its Vincentian spirit of service. As a community-wide problem, it requires a community-wide response.