Last July two members of our St. Thomas Aquinas conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society met with a homeless family in a city park. Mom worked for Badger Bus. Dad was on disability. Mom missed work because of a complicated pregnancy, which led to less income, which in turn led to an eviction. They had been homeless for 5 months. Most evenings they stayed at the Salvation Army shelter, but sometimes the shelter was full and Mom, Dad and the 5 kids, including their 3 month old baby would squeeze into the family car to spend the night. We paid Porchlight $292 so that the family could move into a subsidized apartment. Two months later, we again met with the family to arrange for them to receive furniture that had been donated to our stores.
Helping this family was one of the highlights of the past year for our conference. This is a summary of all the activities of our members in the fiscal year ending September 30.
Our members made 93 home visits in the past year, providing help to prevent a utility shutoff or eviction or providing furniture, diapers or just a friendly ear. We also met with 17 other homeless families or individuals.
Requests come from various sources, including our SVdP Service Center, referrals from parish staff, the Lussier Center or neighborhood caseworkers. We also receive calls directly from families in need. Last year we were contacted by 177 different individuals by phone.
Last year our conference spent a total of $31,676 assisting the poor. We got this money from several sources. We received a $7500 grant from the parish Outreach Funding Board. The
parish also gave us the proceeds from the Thanksgiving Day Mass collection. Several parishioners made personal contributions. And our own members contribute money at each monthly meeting. In addition, we were able to distribute $7,881 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 paid security deposits so that 12 homeless families could move into housing.
- We made rent payments so that 29 families could avoid eviction.
- We helped 30 families with utility payments to prevent potential shutoff.
Other highlights of the past year:
- We made visits to 16 previously homeless families who had moved into the new subsidized apartments at 7933 Tree Lane to help them get furniture.
- A member of our conference addressed the National Meeting of our Society held in San Diego in September.
- We delivered 2,842 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 454 children at our Little Drummer event in December.
- Together with 17 other conferences, we accepted over 6,000 blanket donations at area Shopko stores and before Masses as part of our January Recycle the Warmth collection.
- We co-hosted the annual Mother’s Day Baby Shower.
- We provided a chili supper to parishioners enrolled in Alpha in April
Our current membership includes:
- 14 members who serve as home visitors
- 10 members who volunteer at Vinny’s Lockers, storing the belongings of 161 homeless individuals
- 13 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 11,400 pounds of vegetables for our Food Pantry at the Lacy Food Pantry Garden in Fitchburg
- 7 members (who are also Knights of Columbus) who collected 19,936 pounds of donated produce from Farmer’s Markets and delivered it to our Food Pantry
- 8 members who volunteer as hosts, stockers and receptionists at our Food Pantry
- 2 members who volunteer at our SVdP pharmacy for the uninsured
- 3 members who volunteer at the County Jail tutoring inmates or joining them at Mass
- 2 members who volunteer at the Lussier Community Education Center
Since its founding in 2003 our conference has been able to provide 912 families with financial assistance totaling $192,812. 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.