Lent is upon us. For Catholics and many other Christian denominations, Lent is a time for self-examination. Am I living up to the purpose to which I have been called. Are you? Whatever our faith beliefs, most of us want to believe we are on this earth for a purpose. And most of us want to make the world a better place for ourselves and others. Through your generosity, you have shown that is the world you want.
In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time to use the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to grow in holiness. These practices, followed intentionally, should also grow our capacity to love one another. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on fasting.
Isaiah 6-8 tells us:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
It occurs to me that fasting is largely the privilege of those with means. You can’t fast from what you don’t have. I’m reminded of a prayer that my mother-in-law taught our children when they were very young.
Thank you Lord for enough and some to share.
The concept of “enough” seems contradictory to our culture. Rather, accumulation and materialism reign supreme. But if we are to think about justice for our neighbors in need, we must grapple with what is enough. Intentional fasting helps us recall the difference between wants and needs. It softens our hearts towards those who can only choose between need and need without the option to choose a want.
This Lent, whether or not you are a person of faith:
- Will you join me in fasting?
- Will you spend time contemplating the concept of enough?
- Will you share with those in need?
I’d love to hear about your experience with fasting and how – or if – you grew in goodness through it. Please stay in touch.
You remain in my prayers of gratitude,
CEO & Executive Director
Have you ever been in a stressful time full of things beyond your control?
For Mr. and Mrs. Thao* that stressful time occurred when they were both admitted to the hospital. Neither had health insurance. They were worried. Worried about what was wrong with each of them and what it would mean – What would it cost? Where would they go? Who could help them?
Once diagnosed, they received treatment plans and prescriptions for multiple medications. Yet the costs for a reduced rate prescription program was financially beyond their means.
A hand outstretched to help
At a follow-up appointment, a glimmer of hope appeared. Their nurse recommended the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy.
The Thaos now make monthly visits to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions – at no cost to them. They also receive support and encouragement from pharmacy staff and volunteers.
In its ten years of operation the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy staff have filled over 50,000 prescriptions for more than 1,500 uninsured adult patients.
Mr. and Mrs. Thao live healthier lives because of your care and commitment to our neighbors in need. Without you, each of these individuals would suffer from untreated effects of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health conditions, and be susceptible to the flu and COVID-19 variants.
The pharmacy is often the last lifeline for patients who have nowhere else to turn. Many patients are initially referred from hospitals, emergency departments, and local clinics.
The importance of good communication
Even as the couple started on a stable regime, there was one more hurdle to overcome.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Thao are native Hmong speakers with limited English. Thanks to Ricky, a St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy volunteer fluent in the Hmong language, the couple can fully understand how to properly manage their conditions and medications.
Hmong is the third most common language spoken in Wisconsin. It’s primarily an oral language with a relatively short written history. For older Hmong adults who cannot read the language or speak English fluently, navigating life, including a detailed pharmacy visit can be difficult.
During each pharmacy visit, the couple sit down with Managing Pharmacist, Yolanda Tolson-Eveans, RPh, where she provides a pill organizer, schedule and calendar. The calendar shows images of the pills they’ll receive so they know what to expect (at right). Ricky is on hand to translate and explain her instructions.
“Ever since we’ve been here it’s been so helpful to have a schedule and calendar,” Mrs. Thao affirms. “We’re very thankful to the donors and everybody. Even as cold as it gets, the pharmacy staff is helping (outside for the curbside delivery). We’re grateful for the pharmacy and volunteers.”
Recalling their first meeting, Ricky immediately noticed Mr. Thao’s face relax when they were introduced.
“Bridging the gap of understanding and ensuring access to care is so important,” Ricky commented. “When you have someone that is of your culture and community, you have trust in the healthcare system. Trust in the pharmacists and trust in the pharmacy.”
Today, the world is a little brighter because of your dedication. Today, the Thaos and hundreds of neighbors like them can thrive.
How you can help pharmacy patients right now
In December 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. There are several health-related policies in the document. One of the most notable for the pharmacy relates to changes in Medicare coverage. During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, states were “prohibited from terminating or reducing benefits for most Medicaid enrollees.” During this time, Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 30%. This “continuous coverage” will end this month, March 2023. States have three months to plan for a return to regular eligibility and enrollment but experts expect it could take up to a year for people to receive renewed coverage.
For neighbors relying on prescription medicine everyday, doing without them puts them at risk for declining health, job loss, and expensive emergency department visits. As patients are dropped from Medicaid coverage, it is anticipated that neighbors in need of free medication will drastically increase. To serve more patients, the pharmacy will expand operating hours. Additional hours will also allow UW-Madison School of Pharmacy students to provide patient care and earn valuable practical experience.
Here are three ways to help:
- Share a gift. Give a one-time gift or become a monthly Sustaining Samaritan pharmacy donor. Even with donations and discounts, the average cost of each prescription is over $90.
- Share why you care about improving healthcare access. Spread the word about the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy. We often hear that people don’t know about our service. The more we can get our word out, the more people we can help.
- Share your time. Do you have a free afternoon each week? There is no prior healthcare experience needed to volunteer.
Sources: Princeton University, Unwinding Provisions in the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023: Medicaid and CHIP Provisions Explained
*Using last names only to protect the neighbors’ privacy. Photos are representational.
Growing up, Nicholas moved often: Canada, Montana, Portugal, Japan. The son of an Air Force pilot, he went into military service himself after high school and settled down in Georgia later in life to raise his daughter. Through childhood, he grew to love the beach, the mountains and winter. But, it wasn’t until a recent trip that he decided to change his life.
“I was planning a trip and had been wanting to make a will for several years,” Nicolas said. “I knew I needed to have something ready and available, especially because I have kids.”
Wanting to know where his assets were going after death and feeling comfortable in his current financial state, he decided to finally write his will. He recalls looking at almost a dozen will-writing services online. The one he finally settled on was Freewill.
Freewill is a no-cost online estate planning tool that simplifies the creation of a will or trust. They partner with charities such as St. Vincent de Paul to encourage more people to document their wishes for those they love and the causes that are meaningful to them.
“I wanted something that was easy to find and go through; was simple and legit,” Nicholas said. “It was a very simple process. It was self-explanatory with easy steps to go through. I completed the will myself, printed the paperwork and got it notarized. That was it.”
Life experiences move him to care
Nicholas credits his time abroad and parent’s guidance for his philanthropic outlook and passion for giving back.
“When I was in the military, we were stationed in Haiti. It’s split into the tourist side and the local side where most people live in poverty. Guerillas were stationed in the mountains to keep local people away from the resorts. When you see things like that, you’re reminded how lucky you are. If you don’t look, you forget how lucky you really are,” Nicholas said.
Since he’s passionate about helping people when they need it, especially with basic life essentials: food, clothing, clean water, Nicholas included a bequest to St. Vincent de Paul — Madison in his will. Another charity close to his heart provides plumbing and clean water for families living in remote Guatemala.
“You must look at immediate needs first,” Nicholas said. “A lot of people are living month to month and need help. It’s so important that people have a place they can go for support and help; nobody likes to ask for charity. If you can get people the help they need without complications, that’s the way it should be.”
No matter what you have to offer, sometimes the smallest act of kindness can have a big impact, Nicholas affirmed.
“Don’t assume someone else will step in to help,” Nicholas continued. “Take the extra effort. Do something extra for somebody. If everybody did something one time for someone else, look how much help that would be around the world!”
Taking care of what’s important
Nicholas first heard about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul from his church. There were several active service programs at his church and one day a representative from the local St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store spoke to the congregation. Nicholas recalls spending weekends shopping and helping sort goods at the store; always looking for a way to help. Since that initial encounter, he’s always been involved in some capacity with the organization and a proud supporter.
“I didn’t know that when you make a will, you have options to donate,” Nicholas added. “Until I did my own will, I had no idea. Freewill gave me a few options of places to donate, but it was an easy decision.”
“I know I’ll leave enough money for my kids to be okay,” Nicholas continued. “Since I was in the military my funeral will be covered. I shouldn’t have debt when I die, so why not donate it? It was very simple and easy to do.”
Learn more about Freewill here. Or, contact Eric Fleming: (608) 442-7220 x34 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we evaluate the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison Food Pantry use month-by-month since 2019, we see a remarkable pattern. The 2019 line (blue) remained steady throughout the year. In 2020 (red) pantry use reflected the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout its first year. In 2021 (yellow), as federal funds, particularly advance child tax credit and stimulus payments, became available to families, pantry use dropped significantly to lower than historical use throughout the year. Presumably more people had money to provide for their family’s food needs. In January 2022 (green), pantry use began where it left off the month before with an upward trend that in August more than doubled last year’s pantry visits.
A slight dip in September follows historical trends, likely due to the return of children to school where breakfast and lunch are available to them. October is traditionally our busiest month, and the six pantry days before Thanksgiving have been the busiest each year. We had a record-breaking day with 205 families on August 26 and eclipsed that record on September 29 with 215 families. Each Thursday in October set a new record. November is generally a busy month at the pantry, with the days before Thanksgiving the highest each year. Thursdays continued to be record-setting days through the Thursday before Thanksgiving becoming our now largest-ever day with 277 families. Instead of tailing off in December as has been our history, we served the most households in a single month than ever before, with 2568 households using the pantry that month.
Thank you for everything you do for Dane County neighbors in need.
There is so much that the staff and volunteers here at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison do to help our neighbors in need. But it’s only possible because of the support from people like you.
Today, I’m writing to thank you for all your help and to update you on some of the recent achievements made possible by you, as well as challenges for the year ahead.
Families who are financially struggling are often hidden in plain sight. Many work multiple jobs to pay the rent, feed their families, and keep their cars running. Some have chronic health conditions compounding their challenges with limited mobility and isolation.
In the three months since I’ve been CEO, I’ve personally seen an alarming number of our Dane County neighbors hungry, without proper winter clothing, sleeping on floors, and failing in health because they cannot afford their prescription medications.
My recent letter about struggling families featured Roy and his son Jackson who needed help with groceries, clothes, beds, and life-sustaining heart medication. Roy and Jackson’s story moved many of our supporters.
I want to thank you for your donation to help our neighbors in need. Thanks to your support, I am very pleased to share that we surpassed our December goal of $400,000 to help Roy and the many families in Dane County who struggle to make ends meet. Your generosity is extraordinary!
Every dollar will be used as we acquire food and medicine from the most cost-effective sources and distribute clothing and household donations provided by generous supporters.
Thanks to people like you, we have been able to reach more neighbors in need than ever before with our food pantry, clothing and furniture vouchers, charitable pharmacy, and housing programs. I continue to hear from neighbors who are so grateful to turn to us during difficult times.
With your help, we have already achieved much for our neighbors in need. However, I know there is much, much more that we must do.
Working in step with the board, our staff, and volunteers we are adapting and strengthening our efforts for neighbors in need. I know how much we can improve the lives of many more struggling families.
My top priorities in 2023 are:
- Providing an alternative to predatory loan companies which prevent neighbors from achieving financial stability.
- Expanding customer choice by restoring the indoor food pantry along with operating the outdoor drive-through, online ordering, and delivery options.
- Stabilizing single custodial adults raising children through individualized support services.
- Increasing the number of patients without prescription drug coverage served through our Charitable Pharmacy.
These efforts would not be possible without your support during the past year. Thank you for everything you do to help our neighbors in need.
If you have any questions about the work you enable us to do please feel free to contact me directly at (608) 278-2920 x32 or email@example.com. I’d love to speak with you.
With the deepest gratitude,
CEO & Executive Director
You voted St. Vinny’s Thrift Stores as the best around town. Thank you! And, thank you for shopping and donating. We are proud to operate quality thrift stores and bring you unique, one-of-a-kind events.
Madison Magazine Best of Madison:
- Best Thrift/Secondhand/Consignment Store: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019
- Best Home Accessories: 2022
- Best Clothing (Women): 2022
- Best Clothing (Men): 2022 (bronze), 2018 (bronze)
Madison.com People’s Choice:
- Consignment/Used Clothing Store: 2022, 2021
- Clothing Store (Women’s): 2021
- Resale Shop: 2022, 2021
- Charitable Organization: 2022 (silver), 2021 (bronze)
Waunakee’s Tribune Best of Waunakee Awards:
- Best Place to Shop for Bargains: 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2010
- Best Retail Store: 2022
Right now, many of us are focused on the most joyous and magical time of the year. We’re buying presents, grocery shopping for holiday parties, scheduling time off from work and looking forward to time with family and friends.
But for thousands of Dane County families, the holidays bring additional pressures to try and make financial ends meet. While the vast majority of people settle into a relaxing holiday, families struggling financially are making urgent decisions on what they can afford.
One out of every nine Dane County neighbors lives below the federal poverty line with many of them working multiple jobs. They are stretched thin this year with increasing prices and the compounding effects of inflation. More and more people need help.
When daycares and schools close for winter, kids lose a school-provided meal and families lose wages as parents need to take time off. As the cost of food, rent, clothing and basic household essentials continues to rise, our neighbors in need are experiencing the heavier end of this weighted reality.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison offers both basic life essentials and customized assistance such as food, clothing, prescription medicine, furniture, housing assistance and caring support to help families thrive.
Will you give our Dane County neighbors in need a helping hand this holiday season?
Without you, children may go hungry, adults won’t have needed medications, and families will live without furniture or warm clothing. There are several ways to help:
- Purchase extra food and baking supplies and drop them off at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
- Make a monetary gift to purchase children’s toys, books and games which will be distributed to families who cannot afford gifts.
- Volunteer with your family, your coworkers or your friends.
- Make a New Year’s Resolution to advocate or pray for people facing financial hardships.
- Clean out your closet and donate goods to St. Vinny’s Thrift Stores.
- Purchase gift cards to Walmart, Woodman’s or other big box stores to donate to a family in need.
- Learn about the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy so you can refer any uninsured adult who needs help getting their prescriptions.
- Donate online now to support programs offering help and hope.
Whether a mother needs help putting healthy food on the table, an elderly couple requires new prescriptions they can’t afford, a young man needs a safe place to live while he’s between jobs, or a family needs winter clothing for their young children, our neighbors in need turn to St. Vincent de Paul — Madison for help all year long.
This holiday season, join a compassionate community of people reaching out to our neighbors in need to offer goods, assistance and hope. Donate online now to support programs offering help and hope.
“Enrique is the best example of Port St. Vincent de Paul,” Nick Fatsis, Port St. Vincent de Paul Director, said. “The way he’s living and taking care of his business is setting an example for the other men. I wish I could clone him. He’s really that impressive.”
Enrique is a current resident of Port St. Vincent de Paul which provides a home and hope for up to 30 men as they transition out of homelessness, prison, or struggles with addiction or mental illness. The 24-hour staff help men like Enrique navigate life challenges, apply for jobs, rest and stabilize, find permanent homes and restore their hope for the future.
Accompaniment on a new path
Enrique’s new path of hope is made possible by your generosity and your care for him and many men working to change their lives for the better. His journey could not be realized without you – your donation of goods, volunteer support, shopping at our thrift stores, and monetary gifts.
You and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison have embraced Enrique and are accompanying him along his new path of hope.
In addition to being a model Port resident, Enrique is a St. Vincent de Paul — Madison employee who recently earned a promotion at the Processing Center. He joined the staff while serving a sentence at Oakhill Correctional Institution.
“While I was in prison, I worked my way down to the custody level to be able to get a job in the community,” Enrique said. “And that’s where I met John Cobb (Associate Director of Retail Operations) and he hired me, gave me a job at the Processing Center and this is how this all started. If John didn’t give me the chance, I know I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am doing.”
“If I didn’t get the opportunity to work I would have gone back to Milwaukee and wound up right back into the mix,” Enrique continued. “I probably would have ended up doing drugs again, coming back to prison. John put me in touch with Nick and talked to the social worker and my probation officer, they got in touch and set it all up and here I am.”
What started was a transition from incarceration to full-time employment and support to plan his next steps in life while living at Port St. Vincent de Paul. Enrique is now working towards building a new life with your help and continued support.
The people who help
Enrique credits the personal connections he has made through St. Vincent de Paul with helping him be successful.
“Nick has been amazing,” Enrique said. “He is probably one of the nicest people I’ve met in my life. It doesn’t matter what you did, or where you’re from. He doesn’t look at you any differently. He’s just got a huge heart. He’s a great guy.”
Nick applauds Enrique’s work to change his life and commends him as an example of the immense power and potential of Port St. Vincent de Paul.
“He is setting an example for other Port residents,” Nick said. “The way he’s living and taking care of his business is setting an example.”
The generosity of others
Port residents receive counseling, daily meals, laundry facilities, and access to phones and computers through the program. Residents pay nominal program fees to partially underwrite expenses and establish a payment history for tenancy when they move into permanent housing. Staff work with residents to identify and achieve their goals which leads to greater stability and independence such as references for permanent housing and employment.
Nick is moved by the generosity of people like you who volunteer and donate money to support men changing their lives through the men’s housing program.
“I already have calls from people that are planning to bring loads of wrapped Christmas gifts,” Nick said. “It almost makes me want to tear up. The fact that people do care in this community.”
Overcoming challenges and moving forward
Enrique has his sights set on a brighter future.
“I hope to get my own place and continue starting my life over,” Enrique said. “It’s crappy having to restart all of the time. I just turned 34 and I’m still climbing out of holes.”
When asked if he had advice for other men in similar situations, Enrique said he would tell them to reach out for help.
“I would tell them that if they’re in need and they’re struggling like I was, they should try this route,” Enrique said. “I would tell them about Nick.”
If you have a heart for creating futures of hope for Enrique and men like him, please pray for them and Director Nick Fatsis, and give generously to support the life-changing work at Port St. Vincent de Paul.
It’s a bright sunny afternoon in late October as Kamaria* finishes her work day as a caregiver. She smiles, says hello when I walk up to her car to chat. Yesterday included two shifts, one for each of her employers, 12 hours in total. She is tired.
“Caregiving is a hard job,” Kamaria says. “But it’s good. If people didn’t like it, they wouldn’t do it.”
Kamaria’s third job is being a mom to three teenagers. Her youngest is 14.
“I am so busy, they keep me on the run,” Kamaria says.
Her final stop before going home is the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
“I have been coming to the pantry for a long time,” Kamaria explains. “It helps, it really helps. Especially now with how expensive food is.”
Increased need for food
As pantry staff member Ashleigh loads Kamaria’s groceries into her front seat, she smiles and laughs that her kids can help her unload once she gets home. The boxes and bags are heavy with fresh produce and pantry staples. Cooking oil and other baking items are particularly bulky and hard to afford on her budget.
“The kids eat all of the food, they can unload it,” Kamaria laughs. “I cook healthy food all of the time. My kids love fruits and vegetables. Anything fresh.”
The rising prices of food, gas and utilities are hurting her ability to care for her children. She gets food from the pantry to be able to afford other bills.
The St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is open four days a week to provide groceries to families and individuals. Each month since May of this year an increasing average number of households have turned to the pantry for help with food. Rising costs hit people with limited incomes the hardest forcing them to make hard choices and adding stress to their lives.
A blessing of time and convenience
Kamaria struggles to find time to balance all of the demands of her day: working two jobs, managing a household and raising three hungry teenagers. She uses Pantry2Home (formally PantryPal), the online food ordering system. She credits the resource as a game-changer for her family.
“The online order has been good. I come home from work and don’t have time to wait in line and have to go right home and cook,” Kamaria says. “A friend from work told me about this service. I am so glad I learned about this.”
Placing an online order relieves the burden of time from families stretched thin, allows them to choose exactly which pantry items they need, reduces food waste and offers greater flexibility for cultural preferences and dietary restrictions. Online orders are easy to make for people using the pantry. They visit the Food Pantry page of our website and click the Pantry2Home button to place an order for pickup, or the DoorDash button to place an order for delivery.
Currently, about 20 families place and pick up orders each Monday, Tuesday and Friday. On Thursday, that number exceeds 50 families as DoorDash drivers deliver the orders to 25- 40 families, in addition to those who choose to pick up their orders. Pantry staff and volunteers work hard to pack all of these orders while still managing the drive-through pantry service. Your generosity fed an average of 145 households each pantry day last month.
“You guys do wonderful things. I don’t like to waste food and with the online ordering I can choose exactly what I know my kids will eat,” Kamaria reaffirms.
Kamaria relies on the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry to feed her family and give her hope. Your care for and generosity to her and thousands of neighbors like her is tremendous. You make moving forward together in hope possible.
*Name changed to maintain the neighbor’s privacy. Photos are representational.
Donate now to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry
Did you know only about 33% of American adults have a will or living trust? That means two out of every three people do not have a will!
We have partnered with FreeWill to bring you the opportunity to create a lasting will. Just like establishing a power of attorney or securing life insurance, making a will is just one item often pushed aside. We hope you will take advantage of FreeWill as a resource to establish your legacy, and care for your family, friends and community. Click here to learn more about leaving a legacy with your will.
Lynne Toseff (right), longtime Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteer and donor, shares why she decided to start her will with FreeWill:
- No-cost: “I decided to use FreeWill because it was offered and it was free. I wanted to get organized and all of the necessary forms were there online.”
- Simple: “The process wasn’t too long or complicated and I was able to name my power of attorney and medical power of attorney to give my family security.”
- Protective: She wants to continue providing for her family, “I want to be able to show my children what they are getting and show them the completed will.”
- Urgent: “I had been procrastinating and wanted to finish the will. The longer you ponder something, the less likely you want to do it, but the more important it gets; especially in making things better for the family.”
Click here to learn more and organize your end-of-life wishes with a will visit.
Information on FreeWill’s website is intended as general guidance and does not constitute legal advice for any specific individual. Please consult your attorney for legal advice.