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The Feast of St. Isadore, patron saint of farmers, saw St. Vincent de Paul — Madison volunteers and staff come together for the annual blessing of Lacy Garden, a member of Madison Area Food Pantry Gardens.

Msgr. Larry Bakke led the blessing, which included a reminder from the book of Genesis that God has called us to be stewards of his creation. The gathered group prayed for a bountiful harvest to provide food for families coping with food insecurity in our community. Msgr. Bakke, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, reflected that God’s work began in a garden and continued in a garden after Christ’s resurrection.

Tom Lacy, carrying on the tradition established by his late parents, invites volunteers to use 1.25 acres of the family farmland each year. In the garden’s 23rd year, planting began in early May, and harvesting will happen into October.

In a typical year, the Lacy Garden provides about 20,000 pounds of vegetables for distribution to people at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. Crops grown at the garden include asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, squash and more.

This year, for the first time, a summer intern, Becks Gatewood, will learn and support the work of garden volunteers: individuals, families, corporate groups and youth group members. These workers are crucial to a successful harvest. Getting involved is rewarding. No previous gardening experience is necessary. Regular work sessions are held on Monday and Thursday evenings, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You can find more information about the Lacy Garden and volunteer registration here.


The men of Port St. Vincent de Paul recently planted a “rain garden” as part of The Roger Bannerman Rain Garden Initiative.

The City of Madison Engineering Division established the program and hopes residents will help it reach its goal of 1,000 rain gardens! Port St. Vincent de Paul is proud to be one garden growing that possibility! Rain gardens help reduce runoff on the Isthmus and keep our lakes clean.

At the Port, several men planted a variety of flowers and wildflowers and installed a ‘bee barn” to help our local pollinators thrive. The Port vegetable and flower gardens are pretty popular during the summer months, and the new gardens give program participants an opportunity to unwind and relax while they are seeking a fresh start.

St. Vincent de Paul conferences at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church and St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church generously provided funds and plants for the garden. Lacy Garden leader, Tom Parslow, graciously lended his expertise and equipment to help plant the garden as well.

Will you consider growing your support for Port St. Vincent de Paul?

With a monthly gift, you can invest in the ongoing maintenance and care of our men’s housing program. Thank you!

Who is it you know who typically does the most they can do for their families, friends, church or community – time and time again?

I’ll bet if we asked that question in a room full of people, the answer that would rise to the top would be, “my mom.” Dads would get some love, too, or maybe a friend we admire. But moms? They’re known for doing the most they can do for their families every day.

We hear people say all the time, “It’s the least I could do.” What if we were each to strive to do more – to reach for “the most I could do,” just like our moms? Your generosity has already helped the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison do more. Thank you.

In these tumultuous times, the calls for help come every day, and we continue to do the most we can do to meet basic needs.

We’re reaching to do even more, and we need your help. Here’s how:

In order to do the most we can do to serve our neighbors in need, we rely on the support of our generous community.

We leverage that generosity through careful stewardship of donated funds, volunteer support where possible and creation of partnership opportunities with other service organizations. Are you ready to do the most you can do? We hope you will consider a gift today to provide help and hope to local people coping with poverty.

Please consider one of the following ways to give:

Imagine a community where each of us does the most we can do, even if it’s once in a while. We won’t all be a Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King Jr. or a St. Vincent de Paul. We might not even be as giving as our own moms were to us. But wouldn’t Mom be proud to know that even for today, you did the most you could do? For considering what might be your way of doing the most you can do, we thank you.

Donate now to help us provide food for one more family or fill a prescription for one more uninsured patient.

Increasing food prices mean higher client numbers at our Food Pantry, and people come however they can.

As he loaded cans of soup, a bag of apples and oranges, frozen meat, cheese, yogurt containers and a gallon of milk onto his bike, Geoff* explained how much the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry means to him. “It’s a huge blessing. A blessing of food which goes a long way,” Geoff said. “All of these people out here to help, it’s amazing!”

It is a cold, cold “Wisconsin spring” day. It’s windy outdoors in the parking lot. A mix of snow and rain falls heavily. Still, staff and volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry are loading vehicles with food and personal-care items as they have, regardless of the weather, for the past two years. Cars frequently begin lining up 45 minutes before the pantry opens. Once they reach the front of the line, it takes just minutes for staff and volunteers to load trunks or backseats with boxes of food. Clients make special requests – no meat, skip the bread, just produce this week – but most take the full 75-pound allotment.

A cart loaded with food- produce, a gallon of milk, boxes of pantry staples and brad.Most people coming through our Food Pantry receive about 75 lbs. of food (right). Your gift will help Geoff and other clients get the food they need, donate here today. Thank you!

Since the beginning of April, our food pantry has averaged 104 households per pantry day. The current record-high number of households in one day for this year is 158. These are numbers more typically seen around Thanksgiving and Christmas times. Staff and volunteers load a vehicle every minute and a half on the busiest days.

Vehicles aren’t the only way people retrieve their groceries and come through our outdoor drive-through service. Geoff, a pantry client this past year, rides his bike to and from our pantry. Other pantry users ride the bus, using backpacks or shopping bags to carry their food home. A friend referred Geoff to St. Vincent de Paul. He’s been a regular at the pantry for the last year. Especially due to the pandemic and inflation, access to free food has helped him pay other expenses and bills.

Inflation means food and other goods are expensive. Everyone feels this. Those who lack transportation face an added burden. Geoff cannot drive but manages the best he can by using a bike carrier to get his groceries home. Heavy items go on the bottom, bread on the top and anything else he can carry in two backpacks on his back. A supply of toilet paper, toothpaste and other personal-care items hang from his bike’s handlebars.

“God blessed us with this food and with this pantry. It’s amazing with such nice volunteers and staff,” Geoff said. “Food is expensive, rent is expensive, and this helps to cover other expenses like my rent and utilities. I can’t thank you enough.”


*Name changed for privacy

What is a conference? Who are members?

In 1925, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul began serving in Madison at St. Bernard Catholic Church and Holy Redeemer Church. Each parish formed a conference of members dedicated to providing help to people in need. Ninety-seven years later, the Society continues to serve in Dane County with 18 member conferences which together make up the District Council of Madison. Today, each conference is located at a Catholic church.

“I wanted some hands-on work to help people, not just talking about helping people,” Ed Emmenegger, Blessed Sacrament (Madison) conference member, said, “It lets me put what’s in my heart into action.”

One way Society members provide relational care and support is by visiting people in their homes. A person in need calls for help and two conference members go to their home to hear their story and learn what assistance they need. “I like how respectful home visits are,” Jeanne Bauhs, Our Lady Queen of Peace (Madison) conference member, said, “We’re just showing someone that people care when they are down and out.” Often, the conference will help with rent, utility bills, or other financial needs, and direct that person to additional resources that may provide support, including the District Council and its programs of assistance.

In 1941, the church conferences established what is now the District Council, to operate larger programs than any conference could manage on its own. The “Special Works” of the District Council include all our programs and resources you know about today! These include our customer choice Food Pantry, Charitable Pharmacy for uninsured adults, housing programs for men, women and children, Vinny’s Lockers long-term goods storage, and our seven St. Vinny’s Thrift Stores. The District Council may also provide additional funds to help people whose needs exceed a conference’s ability to help.

“It’s great to have real assistance as part of an organization,” Mike Meehan, St. Thomas Aquinas (Madison) conference member, said, “We couldn’t do all this as an individual or a church, but we can do big things as part of a larger group.” Beyond home visits, conference members provide volunteer service at various St. Vincent de Paul — Madison events throughout the year, run food drives, help with our Recycle the Warmth blanket drive and more!

“I encourage others to get involved in whatever way they can,” Brenda Welhoefer, Saint Ann (Stoughton) conference member, said, “Even if you can’t be a home visitor, you can donate, you can raise money, you can volunteer, you can donate things you no longer need. It’s all done by local people for local people.”


Are you interested in becoming a member? Email Membership Director Gayle Westfahl at

Debby Leisner grew up in a Milwaukee suburb with two brothers and a single mom. Even as a child, she understood her family was poor, but never felt underprivileged. Her mother worked several jobs to provide  for her kids, but struggled to make ends meet. At one point she realized she needed to seek help. Debby and her family visited a food pantry in a local church basement. Walking in, they saw bags of groceries – cans, pantry staples and non-perishable items. As Debby and her family approached the bagged items, a nun looked at her and said, “We’ve got something special for you.” The nun reached up behind a back shelf, pulled down a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal and handed it to Debby. That exchange stuck with Debby for a long time

Headshot of woman

Debby Leisner is VP of Business Operations at Widen, an Acquia Company, in Madison.

Reflecting on this moment, Debby shared that it stood out to her particularly as a moment of inspired hope. “It defined what hope could be; there will always be people that care and we are never alone,” Debby said. “It was a moment in my life where I felt hope and knew that everything would be okay.”

Debby shared that she gives back to share that spark of hope she felt in one experience as a nine-year-old. Her wish is that if one child can receive something special, something out of the ordinary just one time and feel that sense of fulfillment and promise, it will be worth it. “Sometimes we believe that extra can of food, that extra step to help someone won’t make a difference, but it will. It makes a difference to the person on the receiving end of that action,” Debby said.

Food insecurity is a large need across Dane County. With your support we will continue to provide help and hope to thousands of families this year. Please donate to our food pantry here. A child may find the same hope that Debby did.

Thanks to Debby sharing her story, PepsiCo shipped us 224 boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal! We are so grateful for this unique item as we are proud to offer a wide variety of food. Beyond fresh produce, pantry staples, meat, dairy and eggs, yes, we do provide sweets and snacks!

Four volunteers and staff standing buy a pallet full of Cap'n Crunch cereal boxes, holding a sign which reads, "Thank you!" Full pallet of Cap'n Crunch cereal in cardboard boxes

St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy staff continue to provide health information to patients on receiving their COVID-19 vaccines

St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy staff and volunteers provide COVID-19 vaccines and health information to “hard-to-reach” people who have been hesitant to receive a vaccine. Staff pharmacists Becky Mann and Yolanda Tolson- Eveans share stories of patients they have talked with and educated about the importance of receiving their COVID-19 shots. In some cases, folks were current pharmacy patients and asked if they would like to receive a vaccine and initially said no. After explaining the benefits, talking about their concerns and sharing information, several patients received their vaccine with a resounding, “Yes, please!”

Pharmacist giving patient a vaccine

In one instance, a patient accompanied a family member while he received his vaccine. Several weeks later, that patient decided to follow up with our pharmacy and came to receive his own vaccine. In another case, staff offered a patient a COVID-19 shot and discussed his concerns. At that time, the patient declined, but several months later when the opportunity arose, he had re-considered due to the positive conversation and helpful information our staff shared.

Many of our patients face barriers to receiving healthcare: transportation, information only provided in English and lack of internet to access resources. Our pharmacy consistently helps patients overcome these barriers. Through Uber Health, we can offer patients a free ride to and from our pharmacy. Our volunteer interpreters allow staff to engage with Spanish-speaking patients. We offer a variety of ways to sign up for an appointment and retrieve medications. We advertise our standing as a free public resource on several platforms.

Our vaccination clinics have increased awareness of our pharmacy. As the only free-standing charitable pharmacy in Wisconsin, we are not connected to or supported by any single healthcare organization. The more people who are aware of us, the more patients we can help and the healthier our community can become.


If health care assistance is important to you, please consider supporting our pharmacy with a financial donation. Reach out to Eric Fleming, Director of Development, at (608) 442-7200 x34 to discuss how an individual or business can assist with our pharmacy needs.


Thank you for scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine with St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy. We are located at 2033 Fish Hatchery Road, Madison WI 53711. Our hours of service are:


Please click here to make a donation

to St. Vincent de Paul!

Alejandro Vergara serves as a current pharmacy volunteer, Board of Directors member and long-time friend of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

His involvement and dedication to the organization is felt by clients, staff and fellow volunteers. As a Spanish interpreter, his communication with patients is essential. Alejandro remembers growing up in Columbia where his father was an active member in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. His father visited people struggling with poverty on the outskirts of town. He provided clothing and food vouchers, among other items. When Alejandro moved to Madison in 1992, he wanted to reconnect with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and found fellow Vincentians at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Middleton.

Alejandro dove deeper into the organization through his involvement on the Board of Directors and as a pharmacy volunteer. Speaking on his involvement with pharmacy patients, “It’s a relationship,” Alejandro said. “It is a chance to interact directly with people needing help. It is more than just giving medications.”

Since April 2017, Alejandro has volunteered over 590 hours in the pharmacy!

“The reward I receive is unbelievable. I feel so good and want to inspire others to help. The more you give, the more you receive,” Alejandro said.

Alejandro remarks that the best way to encourage others is to look around you. While we are all accustomed to our routines, he suggests taking a moment to truly look at the people around you— your coworkers, the person behind you in the grocery store, your neighbor. “The first step in helping is recognizing your own talents and that you are so privileged to be able to share and give back,” Alejandro said.

We are extremely fortunate to have Alejandro as a volunteer and supporter!

To give your support as a Sustaining Samaritan click here!

Jill* found our food pantry one year ago while driving through town. She uses our new online food-ordering system, Pantry Pal, to select and pick-up her canned goods, meat, fresh produce, dairy and bakery.

“The online ordering system is less wasteful than receiving items I might not be able to use,” Jill said. “I can chose exactly what I want.” Jill also brings food to an elderly neighbor.

Pantry Pal was developed by Laura Mendyk and Julie Eichhorn. The current system is an online form, but the pair is developing a mobile app for food pantries. “Pantry Pal is incredibly honored to partner with St. Vincent de Paul to trial and build a platform that will simultaneously make acquiring food easier for those who need it and support the operations of the pantry. We appreciate the support of Chris Kane, Jenni Troia and Josh Hittesdorf (pantry staff) and their willingness to collaborate and engage in this journey with us,” Mendyk said.

“The food ordering system allows me to spend my work money on other bills and not have to worry about food. A lot of people feel shame asking for help, but sometimes you just need help. I am not afraid to ask,” Jill said.

*Name changed for privacy