A worker sorts clothes in the warehouse in Southwest Portland in the 1940s. (St. Vincent de Paul Portland Council archives)
A worker sorts clothes in the warehouse in Southwest Portland in the 1940s. (St. Vincent de Paul Portland Council archives)
1833

Responding to critics of church opulence, University of Paris student Frederic Ozanam begins a society to befriend and serve the poor. Ozanam places the society under the protection of the Virgin Mary and St. Vincent de Paul, a 17th-century French priest revered for goodness and generosity.

1845

The St. Vincent de Paul Society spreads in Europe, and the first conference in the United States is established in St. Louis, the starting point for thousands of migrants setting off on the Oregon Trail.



1869

On Oct. 12, the first meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul on the Pacific coast takes place at Portland’s Catholic cathedral at Southwest Third and Stark, with 22 members registered. The city of Portland has about 8,000 residents.

1874

Members of the new society donate a block at Northwest 12th and Marshall and give $1,000 to the Sisters of Providence to begin construction of a 75-bed structure — St. Vincent Hospital. Stephen McCormick, a Catholic Sentinel editor, is president of St. Vincent de Paul.

1888

After decades as a boom town, Portland begins to experience poverty and men of the society respond by providing for neglected children and making sure the sick and destitute see a doctor.

1926

Archbishop Edward Howard arrives in Portland. He is a St. Vincent de Paul enthusiast, and parishes begin forming more conferences, offering food, clothing, furniture and household supplies.

1928

With 18 parish conferences and 154 active members in the society, the Portland Council is formed to give support, establish efficiency and bring unity of mission. It will cover Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Clatsop and Columbia counties.

1929

The U.S. stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins. Poverty worsens in the Portland area.

1930

The society begins its salvage bureau, taking in used clothing, furniture and appliances to offer to the needy and sell to fund more ministries. The bureau also creates jobs.

1931

St. Agatha Parish in Southeast Portland holds the first St. Vincent de Paul food drive. In the middle of the country, Dust Bowl conditions have begun. Refugees come westward, many to the Portland area.

1935

The society is asked to run a reading room and chapel at Southwest Third and Ankeny. It becomes the St. Vincent de Paul Downtown Chapel.

1937

St. Vincent de Paul begins a special fund to help black residents of Portland.

1940

Blessed Martin Day nursery opens at Northeast Broadway and Williams. It serves the children of workers, including those laboring in shipyards, which had picked up steam with the possibility of war in Europe. Feeding efforts continue and society volunteers begin a jail visitation program.

1946

The conference from St. Philip Neri Parish in Southeast Portland begins annual visits to the Multnomah County Poor Farm in Troutdale.

1948

The Vanport flood leaves more than 18,000 low-income residents homeless and empty-handed. St. Vincent de Paul responds with clothing, other supplies and cash.

1951

A fire destroys the salvage bureau on Southwest Third Avenue. Overcome by smoke, 72-year-old volunteer Anne McArthur dies.

1953

St. Vincent de Paul is a lead organization in the funding and construction of Camp Howard, a summer refuge for city youths in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

1956

A thrift store opens at Albina and Killingsworth in Northeast Portland.

1959

The Portland Council includes 30 parish conferences and 200 members. It carries on aid like burying Catholics who die at state institutions. A new rummage shop opens at Southeast 33rd and Belmont. The salvage bureau has 45 full-time employees and more than 600 part-time workers, many of them people with disabilities.

1971

The society establishes St. Vincent de Paul Rehabilitation, a spinoff program to help disabled people regain job skills by repairing donated goods. Barney Comerford is in charge. The organization remains to this day, called DePaul Industries and now the DPI Group.

1975

Seeking to address causes of poverty, the council opens an alcohol and drug treatment center in downtown Portland. De Paul Treatment Center is still operating.

1977

Portland hosts the national convention of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “The society is both modern and youthful,” national president Howard Halaska tells the crowd. For decades, the society was a male institution, but by the mid-’70s, four of the Portland area conferences have women presidents.

1979

There are 44 parish conferences hard at work assisting almost 11,000 households per year, including with aid for rent.

1985

The society opens a 30-unit housing complex in North Portland. Conferences count a total of 1,000 Vincentians. At Christmas, a door-to-door collection campaign brings in 400,000 pounds of food.

1986

Beth Haglund is elected president of the Portland Council, the first woman to hold the post.

1987

St. Vincent de Paul helps St. Francis Parish in Southeast Portland run a dining hall to feed homeless people and begins a mission program to bring aid and educate young people about issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.

1988

The council begins picking up food from local restaurants. The region now has 57 parish conferences, spread from the coast to near Mount Hood.

1989

DePaul Industries purchases a staffing agency and begins providing trained disabled workers to local businesses.

1992

President George HW Bush gives the Portland council one of his “points of light” awards. The society counts nine thrift stores.

2004

Facing a rise in corporate resale outfits, the council closes its thrift stores.

2007

The council moves from its longtime offices at Southeast 28th and Powell to a site on Milwaukie Avenue in Sellwood that offers a more hospitable atmosphere.

2008

With a recession and booming housing costs in the Portland area, need expands and work of the council and parish conferences increases to meet it.

2009

Aware of the need to reach areas outside Portland, the conference outfits a bus as a mobile kitchen and takes it to serve meals outside parishes in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Estacada and Canby.

2016

Facing post-recession financial woes, the council sells its Sellwood property for $2.4 million and moves into humbler offices, a former spa near Southeast 82nd and Johnson Creek Boulevard.

2018

The council and conferences help distribute 4,000 Christmas food boxes to families in need.

2019

The St. Vincent de Paul Council office, combined with the 49 parish conferences in northwestern Oregon, serves 328,000 people per year with food, rent aid and other supplies. There are about 2,200 volunteers in the society.