Rieder creates programs that build relationships

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 25, 2020

2020 Faith That Works award recipient

GREEN BAY — The StrengthsFinder assessment (now CliftonStrengths) by Gallup identified “Ideation” as one of the top five themes (strengths) for Paula Rieder, program coordinator for Whatsoever You Do Inc. and hospitality coordinator for the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere. Ideation refers to the ability to create new ideas or improve ideas, which Rieder demonstrates in her work, ministry and service.

Paula Rieder serves as program coordinator for Whatsoever You Do Inc. Among the programs she has created for the nonprofit is Amani Outreach that provides routine home maintenance to seniors and people with disabilities and Spirit Way, spiritual direction for people on the margins. (Scott Eastman | For The Compass)

Among the programs created by Rieder is Amani Outreach, which involves volunteer visits to seniors and people with disabilities to provide routine home maintenance and a listening ear. The idea for the program, one of five under the Whatsoever You Do umbrella, originated while Rieder was serving as pastoral minister at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh.

“I was doing visits to the houses, forming ministers to go out and do communion services,” said Rieder.

“I was listening to people and I saw a need,” she added. “The church wasn’t ready for that kind of move, that program. It was more of an outreach. It was beyond what the church could offer at the time.”

Rieder also created Spirit Way, a spiritual direction program within Whatsoever You Do Inc. to provide spiritual guidance to those on the streets and at homeless shelters.

“It’s listening to people very deeply and finding out where the Spirit is moving them in their lives,” said Rieder, a certified spiritual director. “There is something to be said when people can talk to somebody. They feel that trust and feel safe. They can hear themselves talking and you listen. They begin to do the work moving forward. By creating that space for them, you are helping them see how the Spirit is moving.”

A simple invitation in 2012 opened Rieder to many of her service opportunities. While she was enrolled in the Emmaus Program — lay ministry formation offered by the Diocese of Green Bay — Tony Pichler, program director at the time, asked if she was interested in StreetLights Outreach.

“He said, ‘Hey, would you like this? I think you would be good at it. Here are the dates,’” explained Rieder, who was certified in pastoral ministry through the Emmaus Program in 2014. “I thought to myself, ‘I will go see what this is.’ I found it to be special because of all the people involved.”

StreetLights, which began as a grassroots “feet-on-the-street” ministry to engage people on the margins in Green Bay, holds summer block parties at Whitney Park on the city’s east side. During her three years at St. Raphael, Rieder volunteered for StreetLights. She also helped design Spokes for Hope, a program that supplies and services bicycles to provide reliable transportation for people. The program is currently housed at St. Vincent de Paul on the east side of Green Bay.

“You don’t create anything alone,” said Rieder. “They all came from people by listening to them. The block parties are up to 400 to 450 people. For the bike program we have always relied on the graces of others. We have a nice home at St. Vincent de Paul. We work out there once a month during our winter hours. In the summer, it’s every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m.

Whatsoever You Do Inc. was formed as a nonprofit organization in 2017. In 2019, the organization, which relies solely on volunteers and donations, purchased what is now the Whatsoever You Do House of Hospitality on the west side of Green Bay.

“The house is a big step,” said Rieder. “We now have a way to continue some of those relationships. We can invite those that we see in our programs here for continued relationship building, for continued companionship.”

Rieder explained how Whatsoever You Do supports Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid about positive human qualities created by psychologist Abraham Maslow.

“We have shelters and things that reach those first two needs (physiological and safety),” said Rieder. “On the pyramid, we are the middle part. We are looking to provide relationship and that self-esteem and respect.”

Repairs, including fixing the porch, are needed at the House of Hospitality before programs can be offered at the site.

“We would like to bring our senior community here for dinner, just to be social,” said Rieder. “The bike program will stay at St. Vincent de Paul, but we will be able to do repairs at the house.”

The Giving Garden, a community garden to grow vegetables for low or no income community members and food programs, will be located in the House of Hospitality yard. In past years, it was operated at an east side location, but was not available last summer.

“It’s wonderful to be with people in the garden. If you grow something, great,” said Rieder.

As hospitality coordinator at the Abbey, Rieder, a member of the Norbertine Associates, handles all the reservations for retreats. For the past seven years, she has worked as part of a team to provide “Finding Our Way” retreats at the Norbertine Center for people who are homeless. Those retreats served as a catalyst for the House of Hospitality, said Rieder.

“The Finding Our Way retreats are all about relationship,” she said. “It’s about relationship with self, with others and the spiritual. The house became more of a push after those retreats. People asked, ‘Where can we go to find people like you?’”

Rieder grew up on a farm in New Holstein as a member of Holy Rosary Parish. In 1989, after getting married, she moved to Brillion, where she was a member of St. Mary Parish and then Holy Family Parish after a merger in 2002. Rieder has three sons and a daughter ranging in age from 21 to 27. She recently became a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Howard.

To help financially support Whatsoever You Do, Rieder has co-authored books with Pichler, co-founder of the nonprofit and director of the Norbertine Center for Spirituality. They wrote “Confirmed in the Joy of the Spirit: A Confirmation Journal for Teens Inspired by Saintly Heroes” (2018, Twenty-Third Publications) and “Models of Faith” booklets — one for girls and one for boys.

Rieder doesn’t view working with people on the margins as a challenge, but rather a privilege.

“I have this hope within me,” she said. “When I see people there is always this hope in me for them as well. When you see them going through a difficulty, I really believe in them and feel that by keeping their spirits up they can overcome. Our failures are stepping stones to a freedom. They are nothing to fear. Learn how to walk through them.”

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