News from our SVdP Conference president, Steve Middleton:

Last January two members of our St. Thomas Aquinas conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society met with a homeless man at the West Towne Food Court.  He had been referred to us by a social worker after he had been shot several times in a drive-by shooting.  His extended hospitalization resulted in the loss of his job and eventually the loss of his housing.  He and his 5 children had been sleeping on the couches of friends for three months.   He had found an apartment but needed help paying the security deposit.  Our conference paid his landlord $500, which, along with donations from some other service agencies, allowed the family to move into their apartment.  The father is again employed.

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 68 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 13 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 118 different individuals by phone.

Last year our conference spent a total of $19,378.00 assisting the poor.  We got this money from several sources.   We received a $10,000 grant from the parish Outreach Funding Board.  The parish also gave us the proceeds from the Thanksgiving Day Mass collection, and gave us an additional $1000 to honor our Bishop Don Hying, who is also the national chaplain of our Society.  Several parishioners made personal contributions.  And our own members contribute money at each monthly meeting.  In addition, we were able to distribute $7,449.51 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 3 other homeless families could move into housing.
  • We made rent payments so that 29 families could avoid eviction.
  • We helped 29 families with utility payments to prevent potential shutoff.
  • We provided furniture to 19 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:

  • In January one of our members, Ralph Middlecamp, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from in Business magazine for his work with the Society.
  • In April one of our members, Kathleen Dare, received a Distinguished Service Award from the United Way for her work with the Society.
  • In October one of our members, Mike Meehan, was elected to a 3 year term as president of the SVdP Madison Diocesan Council.
  • We delivered 3065 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 466 children at our Little Drummer event in December.
  • Together with 17 other conferences, we accepted over 2000 blanket donations 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 this month.

Our current membership includes:

  • 15 members who serve as home visitors
  • 10 members who volunteer at Vinny’s Lockers, storing the belongings of 186 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 9,300 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 17,269 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
  • 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 987 families with financial assistance totaling $217,480.25.  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.