How You Helped Those Who Help Others

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for your overwhelming generosity on Giving Tuesday! Donations are still coming in, but as of December 3, we had received $25,118, meaning that after we add in the matching gifts, you provided at least $46,618 to provide grocery gift cards in our Christmas Food Baskets and to support our parish St. Vincent de Paul conference in their on-going ministry to people in need. Thank you also to the families that provided the matching funds!

To give you a more detailed picture of the kind of work your gifts support, the annual report from Steve Middleton, our conference president, follows:

Last May one of our members who works regularly at the SVdP drive-thru pantry met an immigrant family who had just arrived in Madison. The father lost his employment in Houston during the height of the first COVID outbreak in Texas. Having no prospects for future employment, the family of 5, including 3 young daughters, upended their lives and drove to Madison on the possibility of work with a friend here in Madison. Upon arrival, there was no work readily available. The father persevered, finding employment by working day jobs for cash. Once they secured an apartment our conference helped with their first months rent, provided clothing vouchers, and connected them with a bi-lingual school social worker for enrolling the kids in school. Sadly, the entire family was recently diagnosed with COVID and have reached out to us for additional rent assistance.

On a more hopeful note, we recently heard from a mother whom we helped extensively with rent, utility, food, and gas assistance since November of 2014. Believing her life was in danger, the mother and two daughters fled from Gambia when the girls were teens. Mom went to work in home health care and gave birth to twins. Today, mom and the two older daughters have all become US citizens, one daughter is in college for social work, and the other daughter is in pharmaceutical school. The twins are now 7 years old and thriving in an in-school program, and mom is now working at Oakwood Village. It is always affirming when we learn that our friendship and financial support over a period of time helps a family survive and thrive!

These are two of the highlights of the past year for our parish St. Vincent de Paul conference.  This is a summary of all the activities of our members in the fiscal year ending September 30.

Members of the St. Thomas Aquinas Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul visited 72 families over the past year. Because of the COVID pandemic, most of these visits were by phone rather than in person. We also met with 12 homeless families or individuals.

Requests come from various sources, including our SVdP Service Center, referrals from parish staff, Joining Forces for Families, the Lussier Center and school social workers.  We also receive calls directly from families in need. Last year we were contacted by 131 different individuals by phone.

Between Oct. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020 our conference spent a total of $32,440.75 assisting those living in poverty.  We got this money from several sources. We received a $10,000 grant from the parish Outreach Funding Board. Together with the Lussier Community Education Center we applied for and received a grant of $10,000 from the United Way to assist families and individuals impacted by COVID. Several parishioners made personal contributions. We were also able to distribute $3,259.65 in assistance provided by grants from the Madison SVdP District Council.

Here are some of the ways that we used the money entrusted to our conference:

  • We made rent payments so that 35 families could avoid eviction.
  • We helped 13 families with utility payments to prevent potential shutoff.
  • We provided furniture to 18 families and paid the cost of moving it to their residence if they had no way to transport it themselves.

Other highlights of the past year:

  • We delivered 2,065 pounds of food and non-perishable items to our SVdP Food Pantry from our 3rd Sunday parish food collections.
  • We made up 300 gift tags and distributed gifts donated by parishioners during Advent
  • Together with 17 other conferences, we provided Christmas gifts to 386 children at our Little Drummer event in December.
  • We contacted 17 Spanish-speaking families who attend Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas, and who had lost jobs or experienced reduced hours because of the COVID pandemic, and helped them with rent or utility bills.
  • Together with 17 other conferences, we accepted over 1,500 blanket donations before Masses as part of our January Recycle the Warmth collection.
  • We co-hosted the annual Mother’s Day Baby Shower.

Our current membership includes:

  • 10 members who serve as home visitors
  • 6 members who volunteer at Vinny’s Lockers, storing the belongings of 186 homeless individuals
  • 5 members who pick up food donations from local grocery stores and deliver them to our SVdP Food Pantry
  • 2 members who planted, weeded, and harvested 9,300 pounds of vegetables for our Food Pantry at the Lacy Food Pantry Garden in Fitchburg
  • 4 members who volunteer as hosts, stockers, and receptionists at our Food Pantry
  • 2 members who volunteer at the County Jail tutoring inmates or joining them at Mass
  • 3 members who volunteer at the Lussier Community Education Center

Since its founding in 2003 our conference has been able to provide 1,028 families with financial assistance totaling $248,765.26. We are extremely grateful to Fr. Bart, the parish staff, and our entire parish family for their continued support of our charitable work. We are also very thankful for the generosity of the many parishioners for their donations to our ministry.