NEWORLEANS- Two days a week, the waiting room is a crowded place. It is the St. Vincent DePaul Society Pharmacy, and it is designed to help those who can't afford to get critically needed medicine. At this pharmacy, the medicines are free.

'Oh this pharmacy is essential to the community, to me myself,' said Client John Pearson. 'Without them, I don't know where I would be, I'd be lost, I'd be hopeless.'

A dedicated team of volunteers helps clients, and volunteer pharmacists, many of them retired, make sure prescriptions are filled.

But since Katrina, the St. Vincent DePaul Pharmacy has been packed, last year helping four thousand clients, and filling 9,800 prescriptions.

'Many of the homeless come here to be served,' said Deacon Rudy Rayfield of the St. Vincent DePaul Society. 'We provide medicines to the indigent, the elderly, low income, no income, so it's a big, big impact.'The St. Vincent DePaul Society also operates the Adult Learning Center, helping up to 150 adults a year prepare for the GED test, take needed academic courses, and study new job skills. It's a place that can change lives.

'It can make a great deal of difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of their family, their children,' said Sister Kathleen Bahlinger, CSJ. 'If a person comes in reading at second grade, or third grade, and then achieves a sixth or seventh grade reading level, they can then help their children with homework.'

The pharmacy alone is a nearly $600,000 operation per year. $160,000 of that is needed to pay for the lights, to keep the doors open, and it is all funded by donations. One of the prime fund raisers: Jazzin' On The River, Saturday, June 23, silent auction, dinner, Dukes of Dixieland play. And get this, a really fascinating restaurant raffle.'

'The raffle is great,' smiled Sister Kathleen. 'For $25, you can win a ticket that gives you $1,000 worth of food at the best restaurants in our town.'

'It's very important, because we have to keep the lights on, we have to keep the doors open, and we get money for medicine, we don't get donors to give a lot as far as for the utilities and that type of stuff, so it's very important, very important,' said Deacon Rayfield. Gala tickets cost $100. For information, call the St. VIncent DePaul Society at 940-5031, extension 10, or visit their website at

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