The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 29, 2000 Issue
Special Section:
Respect Life Month


St. Vincent de Paul: The quiet ministry

Food, clothes, furniture flow out to area needy


'Renewing for the 21st Century:
Loving the Poor'

By: Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

In the Green Bay Diocese, St. Vincent de Paul Stores are its quiet charities.

Even though the stores return thousands upon thousands of dollars to help their communities' needy, people are unaware of how much they actually do, agreed the directors of the Green Bay, Appleton, and Oshkosh stores.

"Nobody knows the extent of what they do here. They don't know how wonderful and good and giving they are," said Sylvia Epprecht, Oshkosh store director.

* During its 1998-1999 fiscal year, Paul's Pantry, which comes under the Green Bay Society's umbrella, provided more that 2.4 million pounds of food to 164,300 people.

* The Appleton store gave away almost $30,000 in furniture and $36,000 in clothes and household goods last year. It raised more that $115,000 for other charitable organizations.

* And Bill Geigel, store business manager, said the Manitowoc store gave away $38,000 in merchandise and paid out $98,000 for clients' rent and utilities.

As Tina Brown, Appleton store director, says, "(We have) always been very quiet about what we do."

While the stores could measure their success in statistics, they exist to serve individuals, said Geigel.

Brown explains it as treating "the poor with dignity and respect."

Dan Williams, the Green Bay Society's volunteer president, sayhs that the District Council consists of 24 conferences of parishes from the city and outlying communities. Each parish has two volunteers who visit new clients, assess their needs, and recommend ways to help.

Anyone requesting help must first visit the Personal Services Center at the St. Vincent de Paul offices. Then, after an interview, they are then referred to St. Vincent de Paul volunteers in the parish nearest their home. Vouchers for clothes are also given.

Williams pointed out that the Green Bay store also gave $99,000 to the parishes during the 1998-99 fiscal year for the poor. And the need keeps rising. From October 1999 through August this year, it gave almost $106,000.

In the Valley, an ecumenical aid group, LEAVEN, screens clients and links St Vincent de Paul with other group like the Salvation Army, United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), and Emergency Shelters.

Appleton parishes and others served by the Appleton store have Vincentian Councils, Brown explained. Anyone living within those parishes can go to the Councils and ask for help

Epprecht talked about individuals served, like women from the Oshkosh domestic abuse program who need furniture, clothing, and household goods to start over in apartments. The store also gives clients vouchers to use at grocery stores. Its drivers even helped a woman move from Kaukauna to Oshkosh when she had no other way to get help.

"It's endless the things that St. Vincent de Paul does," said the Oshkosh store director.

Besides food, clothing and furniture, St. Vincent de Paul helps in other ways. For example, in the last fiscal year, the Green Bay group gave:

- almost $126,000 in scholarships for parochial elementary and secondary schools and Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College.

- provided nearly $3,000 for clients' medical needs

- gave more than $25,000 in in-kind merchandise to various missions and charities

- provided $52,000 to charitable organizations

- gave $91,900 for the six shelters it owns.

The shelters, said Williams, are in the Doty/Webster Streets area. St. Vincent de Paul has partnered with the Salvation Army for this project. The latter supplies the personnel to serve clients living there. The clients include families who would be otherwise homeless and young girls with their babies.

The shelters' goal is to get the clients back into society's mainstream, said Williams.

Another goal, according to and Fran McLoughlin, former St. Vincent president, is get the city to realize that they need to address concerns like affordable housing. McLoughlin, 92, has volunteered with St. Vincent de Paul since since 1958.

In Appleton, Brown says the store also returns money to community organizations and to a Vincentian Council in Nicaragua.

It also owns the COTS building where formerly homeless individuals live as they transition into the job market. A second building has also been purchased for COTS and will soon be ready for families.

The store bought COTS a second building, which it will ready for families.

Williams and the three store directors said they think the needs of the poor will continue to increase. To meet this increase, the stores need merchandise and volunteers.

- The Appleton store especially needs mattresses and box springs.

- The Oshkosh store needs groceries for its pantry.

- Green Bay's Paul's Pantry needs canned goods.

And all four stores need volunteers. While they do have some paid employees, they depend on volunteer support. Green Bay has 400 volunteers that give 4,400 to 4,800 hours per month. Manitowoc has 100; Appleton, 178 and Oshkosh 95. Most are retirees, and many have been involved for years.

One of them, Bill Bascome, says "the joy of it" has kept him working at the Green Bay store for almost 16 years. "There is the satisfaction of knowing 62 cents of every dollar goes back into the community," he says.

In Appleton, Sylvia Krull has volunteered since 1996. She got involved "for the good feeling it gives me" and because she feels she is doing something worthwhile.

Williams and Brown are considering ways to get youth as volunteers. The Green Bay group has organized a youth committee. Williams wants to get youth groups to help out on Saturday mornings when the store is open. Brown plans to contact Appleton's Xavier High School and parish youth groups. She feels they can help out sorting merchandise on evenings when the store is closed.

Williams, Brown, and Epprecht said working in the stores is a way that teens can put in community service hours required for confirmation and high school graduation.

Williams and Brown have plans to increase their stores' visibility through public relations. The Green Bay Society has a public relations committee. The store welcomes inquiries from the media.

Brown plans to speak to Appleton area churches and schools. She has begun to send out periodic news releases about the store's needs and accomplishments.

Related articles:
 • 'Every human life is a sign of God's love, a trace of his glory'
 • Human and earth health linked
 • Helping, respect, love walk hand in hand
 • Changing the face of one Green Bay neighborhood
 • 'Because someone has to say it'
 • In search of a good death


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