Honors for area St. Vincent de Paul volunteers

November 7, 2014

2014 awards recognize service to neighbors in need through the charitable Society.

 Dedicated efforts by several hundred Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers make real the local charity’s mission of helping neighbors in need in our area. Each November a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in Madison is one means that St. Vincent de Paul – rooted in Catholic spirituality and social teaching – uses to thank the Society’s generous local members and other volunteers.

St. Vincent de Paul annually uses this event as an opportunity to recognize several volunteers whose efforts are exemplary and inspiring. The organization’s local 2014 Volunteer Service Awards were presented Nov. 6 before a group of about 325 St. Vincent de Paul volunteers, members and guests gathered at Madison’s Turner Hall for the event. St. Vincent de Paul Madison District Council President Richard Pilsner and Executive Director Ralph Middlecamp presented the awards.

Honoring dedicated efforts that help neighbors in need, the awards were made to the following individuals and groups:  Thomas Dobbins of Madison, Roger LaMasney of Baraboo, Barbara Matthews of Fitchburg, the Oscar Mayer R.E.A.D.I. group, Thomas Parslow of Madison, Patricia Ponty of Madison and Mary Jo Rimkus of Madison.

Pat Ponty was recognized for her Vincentian leadership and effort in a number of service roles over several years. Specially cited was Pat’s coordination of the annual Little Drummer Gift Giveaway benefiting the children of families visited by Dane County St. Vincent de Paul member groups (or “conferences”). This event, which Pat has worked effectively with other Vincentians to coordinate, is a Christmastime blessing to children of families struggling with poverty. Also noted were Pat’s Vincentian service and leadership as a longtime member and current president of Monona’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Tom Parslow was also honored for his Vincentian leadership and significant effort in several service roles over many years. Society members and volunteers tend to know Tom best for his coordination of efforts to farm the Lacy Food Pantry Garden in Fitchburg for the benefit of those who turn to Madison’s St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry for assistance. With Tom’s coordination and hard work, the fresh and healthy vegetables the garden has yielded – as much as 23,000 pounds in a season – have been greatly appreciated by pantry clients. Also recognized were Tom’s role in facilitating the work of the Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens network, coordination of St. Vincent de Paul’s annual “Pick a Pack” fundraiser for Lacy Garden transplants, Vincentian service and leadership as a member and former President of Madison’s Our Lady Queen of Peace Conference, and his current role as a member of the board of St. Vincent de Paul – Madison.

Barbara Matthews and Mary Jo Rimkus were honored together for serving as co-chairs for the 2013 U.S. National Assembly of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The meeting was held in Madison in September last year and marked the only time that Madison has hosted this national gathering of Vincentians. Barbara and Mary Jo were recognized for the leadership and effort they offered for this highly successful and well-attended event intended to foster growth in service, spirituality and friendship among the hundreds of U.S. Vincentians who met here. It was noted that Mary Jo and Barbara took on their National Assembly roles while also serving on the St. Vincent de Paul – Madison board.

The Oscar Mayer R.E.A.D.I. group was honored for significant volunteer service to the community. The award recognized work that members of this retiree group have offered as monthly volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry since the middle of the last decade. It was noted that generous spirit and regular attendance of the R.E.A.D.I. volunteers was evidence supporting the group’s acronym: “Retired Employees Are Dedicated Individuals.” R.E.A.D.I. pantry volunteers Dave Weber, Shirley Worl, Tom Parker and Ray Griesbach were on-hand to accept the group’s award plaque.

Roger LaMasney was recognized for offering Vincentian leadership as president of the Madison Diocesan Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. His 12 years of presidential service across three decades was noted, as was his long tenure as a member and leader of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in Baraboo and the Society’s Baraboo District Council. His dedicated service was cited as a testament to the priority Roger places on the Vincentian values of service, spirituality and friendship in the work of St. Vincent de Paul members on behalf of neighbors in need.

Thomas Dobbins was accorded an honor not previously awarded by St. Vincent de Paul’s Madison District Council. He was honored for significant leadership as a young Vincentian. While still an undergraduate and then a graduate engineering student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tom has helped lead and renew the student St. Vincent de Paul member group at St. Paul University Catholic Center. His service as president of that conference for more than two years and his work as a member in years prior were cited as instrumental in growing the conference both in membership and in service to people in need. It was noted that Tom’s service followed the example of the first members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, who were university students when they founded the Society in 1833.

More about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the volunteer and member opportunities it offers for growth in charity, spirituality and friendship may be found at www.svdpmadison.org.

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