Meet Kevin and Matt.
SVdP CARES Community Thrift Store Truck Drivers extraordinaire.
Pick-up and delivery of furniture and household goods may be a part of their job description, but the two deliver so much more… This “dynamic duo” has been working together for 2 years but have been a part of the SVdP CARES family for over 5. Communications Manager, Mary Burns-Montante caught up with the pair before their daily drive and learned just how much they’re doing to further the mission of SVdP CARES.
What is your typical day out on the road?
Kevin: Every day is different, that’s for sure! It’s a mix of picking up furniture and things to bring back and sell at the thrift store, but also delivering furniture to some of the families and vets that have been housed or given vouchers from the churches. <St. Vincent de Paul Catholic church conferences> Sometimes we will even do a full house clean-up and bring everything back to the store.
Matt: We go into all kinds of neighborhoods. We go from the mansions down to the some of poorest neighborhoods across 4 counties.
Kevin: We see it all out there.
Matt: Who you’re driving with is the most important thing.
Kevin: It’s very important. You have to pick up the right way or you can hurt yourself or your partner. You really have to work together in step.
Matt: …and personality-wise too. We’ve had to deal with some rough situations and individuals, and you have to know that you have each other’s backs. Especially during the pandemic. We’ve been out driving throughout the last year, and no sick days, haven’t taken one!
Kevin: It can be a struggle sometimes, but we’ve managed to stay masked and stay safe and keep our distance when we can.
Since March of 2020, SVdP CARES has housed over 1,650 households. Through the ups and downs of the pandemic, the doors have remained open and the mission of housing never stopped. This includes a voucher program where families and Veterans work with the Community Thrift Store (CTS) for furniture and household goods needed in their new home – beds, couches, household goods, clothing- the amazing CTS team works with 4 out of 16 counties in SVdP CARES service areas to ensure they have the things they need to turn their house into a home.
What drives you (pun intended) in the SVdP CARES mission to end homelessness?
Kevin: Helping out the veterans who are homeless. Delivering their beds. They are very happy when we deliver and put up the beds for them. It means they have a safe place to sleep, a roof over their head, and Matt and I love doing it.
Matt: I like the culture…it’s not money-driven. It doesn’t feel like I’m working when I’m out there, and I really enjoy meeting the people.
Kevin: Yep, me too.
Matt: You have to be in it for the mission when you do this job. It can take a toll on you, not just physically, but mentally.
Kevin: We can go into some rough neighborhoods, and we have certainly seen some things… you always have to be cautious and tag out when you need to, because some of these situations can leave you mentally exhausted.
Matt: Most of the people that we deliver to are extremely grateful, and there are a few that may complain. It’s a mixed bag, and you have to adjust yourself to the different reactions.
Kevin: We try to remind each other why we’re there, so even if some people can’t see it at the time, we know that we’re helping to better their life.
Matt: For some people it’s just a job…they’re looking to clock in and clock out once the day’s over. We go in these places, especially some of these retirement homes, and sometimes you end up staying and talking to people. You can’t have this “get in, get out” mindset, because there’s always a story behind the pickup or delivery. That individual may be grieving the loss of someone, and as you’re taking away their furniture, you’re also taking away a connection to that person, so they may want to talk about it. Or a veteran’s just moving in off the street…it might be the right thing, but he’s rocked and he’s going to be lonely, and we’re one of the first people that he sees.
Kevin: And we put smiles on their faces. We make sure that we’re cheering them up.
Matt: A lot of the deliveries are in or around the same complexes where we’ve delivered before. So, when we go into the same apartment building to house a new one, if other guys see us, they’ll wave, and if we remember where they’re at, we’ll knock on the door and say hi.
Kevin: Oh yeah, they remember us.
Has there been a particular trip or person that has stuck with you?
Matt: There was this one guy, he was 6’4, maybe bigger. The organization that he was working with turned in a voucher to us for a full-size bed, we knew it wasn’t going to work, but they didn’t seem to understand. We upgraded him to a Queen, which was a fight with that organization the whole time, and that still was too small. We apologized and told him that we would be back to get him a bed that would fit. We don’t typically accept Kings at the store, but by the Grace of God, someone was donating one that day and we were able to bring that over to him. We carried it 3 flights of stairs for him.
Kevin: He was so HAPPY!
Matt: But that’s what happens sometimes… when we go in there, they’ve been put through the wringer ya know? They’re not always treated with respect, and then we have to adjust ourselves to that situation to do everything we can for them. We’re “just the drivers,” but by the time we leave, we’re more to them than that.
Kevin: There was another vet that we were delivering something else to, but we saw he had a sleeper sofa that was in bad shape. So we came back to deliver him a better sofa and moved his old one out. Matt and I work hard to follow through on our promises. That’s what you do. You go the extra mile—especially for these vets, right? You have to have compassion.
Anything else you guys would like to share?
Matt: We’re looking for a third driver right now. And I’ll tell you, it’s been hard finding the right fit.
Kevin: Your heart has to be in it.
Matt: That’s exactly it. It’s not “just a job” where you clock in and clock out once the day’s over. It’s rough out here, you’re dealing with all kinds of people. But you got to remember the difference you’re making. The job’s not for everybody, it can be pretty physically demanding—this guy <points to Kevin> is working out every morning before he comes in!
Kevin: <laughs> and I watch his back…no really, I had to tie his shoe one time cause it was hurting him so bad.
Matt: If I had more people like this…
Kevin: and I have had more people like this!
Help Drive out Homelessness
Donate items to help your neighbors in need.
Beds, men’s clothing, shoes, socks, underwear & backpacks are greatly needed.
The Community Thrift Store is one of many parts within the SVdP CARES powerhouse that’s helping to end homelessness. “Community” isn’t just part of a title either… every item donated goes back into the community through everyday purchases or the voucher program that benefits anyone in need, including those that SVdP CARES houses! The items that aren’t able to be sold or given are recycled. This fiscal year alone, Matt and Kevin have delivered over $45,000 worth of furniture and clothing back into the community, with another $100,000 worth of goods given to anyone in need that walks through the CTS doors! If that isn’t enough, shoppers can feel good knowing that close to 90% of every dollar they spend goes back into the housing programs that give individuals, families, and veterans a hand up from homelessness.