St. Vincent De Paul Center serves lunch to as many as 700 homeless people a day - a labor of love that would be impossible without the support of volunteers.

More than 50 groups volunteer regularly at the center, most of them school, church or civic groups. Others come in occasionally. And more are desperately needed - particularly from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays.Volunteers aren't the center's only need. Money is always in short supply, so the center is holding a special luncheon and fashion show Saturday, May 18, beginning with a social hour, bake and "rare finds" sale at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch at 12:30 p.m. The event will be held at the center, 437 W. 200 South, and cost is $10.

"The place is a community effort," said Ann Bero, administrative assistant in charge of the "Fashions Come and Go" benefit. "We rely on donations and there are always 101 little things we need. We need new high chairs for the dining room and a storage closet for the clothing room. Then there are always general operating costs."

The number of homeless served at the center has "gone up astronomically in the last two months." One day in March, volunteers served 412 meals. Exactly four weeks later, the number was 612. They expect to serve just under 700 meals a day in May. "And this is not our busy time," Bero said. "Summer is."

The center is feeling a real labor-force crunch, brought on, ironically, by an increase in food donations.

"We have a truck driver volunteering for us who has really tapped into the produce market," said Chef Matt Minkevitch, who will oversee preparation of the luncheon. "We're getting lots and lots of fresh vegetables, which are so much better than canned foods. But the cans were easier to open. This is a real opportunity for the center and it's challenging because we need to do so much more preparation. We have a chance to do both quantity and quality and that's exciting."

The increase in fresh food has created a need for a small group (up to five) of afternoon volunteers.

For reservations or more information, call Bero at 534-1500 or Mary Hearley at 278-8265.