But with no bicycle the chance for job training might well have been a million miles away.
Challenges like this are more often than not a blessing in disguise for Becky Fickel, who heard a call to help others while attending Mass more than 13 years ago at St. Thomas More Church.
A full-time sales forecaster at Zaug’s Vending and Food Service in Appleton and a grandmother with grandchildren to fuss over, Fickel, 60, nonetheless felt a need to do more, a need to grow spiritually.
“A call for action went out from our church to volunteer to help at the St. Vincent de Paul store in Appleton. It was a calling for me and I was ready to get involved in something more,” Fickel said. “The normal person nowadays is busy with their own life, which is good, but sometimes you need to open yourself up and realize there is a whole lot more that needs to be done in the world. It doesn’t take much to be part of that. Volunteering opened my eyes.”
Fickel committed two hours a week to be the best and most dedicated sorter of clothes and other donated goods at the retail thrift shop on West College Avenue. She also committed to learning what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was all about and came to a basic conclusion.
“It’s people helping people,” Fickel said.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Fickel’s commitment to the charitable society turned into a blessing as she rose to her current position of president of the Appleton District Council of St. Vincent de Paul, which is comprised of nine conferences, or parishes, in Appleton.
Among her responsibilities as a volunteer leader for St. Vincent de Paul is answering calls for help, like the call for assistance she received from the Warming Shelter, located just behind the West College Avenue retail store.
Shelter officials called in behalf of the young woman looking for a way to get to the job internship at Goodwill.
“She had a spark inside her to get that internship, but no good way to get to Goodwill. We (St. Vincent de Paul) arranged to give her a bicycle through a voucher. Hopefully she will get training, get a job and no longer be homeless,” Fickel said. “Getting people help and seeing people raise themselves up is the greatest feeling. Volunteering is growing spiritually. It’s a calling from within.”
In addition to having a full-time job, tending to the needs of her family and volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul, Fickel has also advocated extensively for the Warming Shelter from the time it was a revolving overnight shelter operation in various area churches to its existing permanent facility that opened a year ago.
“Becky is a blessing, a gift of God, to our community because her care, compassion and support for other people in need reveal the risen presence of Christ today,” said Fr. Gerald Falk, retired pastor of St. Thomas More.
Fickel also volunteers at St. Thomas More and works at a community food program called Sunday Servants at the Salvation Army center in Appleton.
“I have a busy life. I want it to be productive. I want to know the time I have is going toward the good of others. It’s necessary for me to do this,” she said.
Fickel said she feels her life is blessed.
“To know you can make a difference in people’s lives is a blessing. I’ve gotten so much out of it. It’s not something you can read in a book. It’s living your faith,” she said.
Fickel said the economic downturn of recent years produced unexpected blessings in her life, including working on a plan for her company that increased its viability in the food service industry.
Recent personnel turnovers and transitions with the local St. Vincent de Paul operations required Fickel to take some time from her regular job and devote it to task at the thrift store operations.
“Everyone at St. Vincent de Paul contributed to our mission, which is another blessing. We said we are all doing God’s work,” she said.
A necessary reorganization of the St. Vincent de Paul retail store operations benefitted recently from the expertise of a downsized, out-of-work former high level corporate retail manager who volunteered his time to help the charitable organization.
“He showed up and said ‘I can help.’ What a blessing,” Fickel said.
Fickel said she prefers to do her volunteer work without personal recognition, instead crediting the community as a whole.
“There are a lot of people who do an awful lot,” she said. “And the purpose of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is to fulfill God’s two greatest commandments — love of God and love of your neighbor.”