OSHKOSH — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Oshkosh has been operating for more than 50 years, and volunteers are finally getting a chance to celebrate that fact.
“Time just got away from me,” said Sylvia Epprecht, president of the Most Blessed Sacrament Conference, chairperson for the celebration and former store manager. She is excited to let people know about the good that the charity does and how much is being accomplished in the community.
“I want the world to know what we do,” she said. “I want to shout it from the rooftops!”
During the weekend of Sept. 8, 9 and 10, St. Vincent de Paul of Oshkosh will celebrate more than 50 years of helping people. There will be special discounted merchandise, early shopper discounts and door prizes.
On Saturday, Sept. 9, the store will be blessed by Fr. Joe Mattern at 8:30 a.m. Longtime volunteers will be acknowledged and a balloon artist will give away free balloon animals from 10 a.m. to noon. Refreshments and treats will also be offered from 9 a.m. to noon for all three days of the celebration.
The Oshkosh conference began in 1964, when Bishop John Grellinger, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Oshkosh, talked to parishioners about the needs of people in Oshkosh and recommended that a St. Vincent de Paul Conference be formed at the parish.
On Feb. 23, 1965, St. Mary became the 22nd conference in the Green Bay Diocese, and Bishop Grellinger gave the conference $100 to pay rent on a store. Donations of clothing and other items started coming in and were given to those in need or sold to raise money for the same purpose.
The store has been located in six locations through the years, expanding to larger sites to accommodate the growing needs of the store. In 2008, the vacant Copps grocery store building at 2551 Jackson St. was purchased, and the store moved to that site. In 2010, a storage building was built next door. The Oshkosh Area Community Food Pantry also operates within a part of the store’s property.
Epprecht said the Oshkosh conference has between 100 and 150 volunteers of all faiths at any given time. Most are recruited through notices in church bulletins and by word of mouth. A fellow parish volunteer at the former St. Peter Parish told Epprecht that the SVDP store needed a manager. “Ever since then, I’ve been involved,” she said.
Epprecht said St. Vincent de Paul helps people with a variety of needs: help with rent, utilities, clothing, furniture, household items and bus passes. Many people in need call the parishes, and parish secretaries call various SVDP conferences. Home visits are made to determine what is needed and conference members “come up with a plan to help them,” Epprecht said.
“Anybody is welcome to join our conference, to help at the store or with home visits,” she said.
Many volunteers stay for years because of how rewarding it is,” explained Epprecht.
“You get such great satisfaction, I can’t begin to tell you,” she said. “You give something and see how happy they are. The gratitude on people’s faces when I’m helping them is fantastic.
“We’re a silent charity. It’s important that people realize how much we do for the community,” added Epprecht.