St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) was a French Catholic priest dedicated to serving the poor. He was captured by pirates and sold into slavery for a time, but became free again and started various charitable endeavors for galley slaves and the poor. He is considered the patron saint of charitable societies, and the charitable society in his name was started by students in Paris in 1833.Learn more about the international organization and the Vancouver conference at St. Vincent de Paul.For Gary Wright, leading the Vancouver conference of St. Vincent de Paul is all about personal connections.He realized that when his simple urge to do somebody some good by putting in grunt work — making bread pickups and unpacking boxes, he figured — had him visiting with desperate people, hearing their stories, offering counseling and comfort as well as emergency food and cash.“It’s life-changing,” said Wright, 60, whose rise through the ranks of volunteers will be complete on Jan. 1, when he takes over from Dick Lauer as executive director of Clark County’s largest individual food pantry. According to its most recent fiscal year statement, the Vancouver conference of St. Vincent de Paul, an international Catholic lay organization, gave out nearly $2.5 million in food, clothing, housewares, Christmas gifts — and grants of emergency cash for rent, utilities, transportation and more — between October 2012 and September 2013. Its warehouse at 2456 N.E. Stapleton Road is open five days a week, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.Life-changing how? It’s all about serving needy people without hesitation or judgment.“We don’t ask a lot of questions.We are looking at the need,” said Wright. “It’s an adjustment for me and my heart. A lot of people pass through those doors with a lot of needs.”Some of them are planning and striving for better. Some are doing the best they can, but they’re simply stuck — because of everything from disabilities to an economy that still isn’t generating many new jobs. And some haven’t a clue about anything beyond hand-to-mouth survival — and never will, thanks to disadvantages such as mental illness and hard-core addiction.