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Volunteering in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness. Here are nine benefits of volunteering:

1. Provides you with a sense of purpose

You may be able to find your purpose through volunteering and becoming part of something greater than yourself. For instance, if you’re retired, unexpectedly unemployed or have lost a loved one, helping others can give your life new meaning and keep you mentally stimulated.

2. Provides a sense of community

Volunteering can help you feel connected to those you are helping in the community. This experience may make you want to get involved with other aspects of your community, such as local politics or advocating for programs you believe are important.

3. Helps you meet new friends

Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends as well as strengthen existing connections with friends, family or coworkers. As a volunteer, you’ll typically interact with people from diverse backgrounds, which allows you to learn other perspectives.

When you choose an organization or cause to volunteer for, consider the people you’re volunteering alongside did as well. Sharing a common interest will help you build closer relationships with those around you.

4. Increases your social skills

Volunteering gives you a chance to talk to new people and sharpen your social skills. By spending a lot of time working with others and using social skills, like active listening and relationship management, you’ll have the opportunity to develop your future personal and business relationships.

5. Improves self-esteem

Volunteering may boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. When you do something you feel is worthwhile and valuable for your community, it gives you a sense of accomplishment that may help you feel more fulfilled about your life and any future goals.

6. Teaches you valuable skills

The training and hands-on experience you gain while volunteering can help you learn new skills as well as build upon ones you already have. For example, if you advocate and raise awareness or funding for a cause that interests you, you’ll gain valuable communication, public speaking, marketing and other hard and soft skills. You can then put these skills on your resume to show employers how you build relationships outside of work in addition to any personal interests that can set you apart from other candidates.

7. Brings fun into your life

Many people use volunteering as a way to pursue their hobbies while making a difference. For example, if you’re interested in the outdoors, you might volunteer at your community garden or help out at a children’s summer camp. Volunteering for organizations or causes also may provide you with a renewed sense of creativity and motivation that carries over into your personal and professional life.

8. Can help you be happier

It often feels good to contribute to projects and organizations that mean something to you. These good feelings can help lessen the effects of stress, anger or anxiety in your life. Volunteering may provide you with the tools you need to be a happy and well-rounded individual. Building bonds and connections with people you volunteer with also may counteract any social isolation. Many volunteer opportunities also may involve physical labor to keep you active and reduce stress.

9. Gets you out of your comfort zone

Through volunteer work, you may overcome the personal challenges of leaving your comfort zone and doing something new with people you may not know. You may be faced with various problems to solve as a volunteer that require you to exercise critical thinking skills that aid your own personal development.

Want to volunteer? View food pantry positions and pharmacy positions. Contact Zoe Lavender, Volunteer Coordinator, at (608) 442-7200 x71 for more info.

The Madison St. Vincent de Paul Youth Service Council (YSC), a high school group that lives out its charism of service, spirituality, and friendship under the auspices of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison, has had a busy fall season. This fall, Youth Service Council members have had three exciting opportunities to live out the spirit of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: to serve, to pray and to grow in friendship.

Friendship

This year, the Youth Service Council’s theme revolves around a quote from St. Vincent de Paul, “Charity is the cement which binds communities to God and to each other.” For a shorter slogan, the quote displayed on the group’s t-shirts reads: Love Will Hold Us Together.

Gayle Westfahl, advisor to the Youth Service Council, is familiar with the Matt Maher song by the same name and noted that there would be an upcoming concert in Waukesha by Maher himself. Matt Maher is an internationally known Catholic contemporary artist who has performed for three popes, a nine-time GRAMMY nominated artist and is a three-time GMA Dove Award winner. Westfahl waded through the artist’s management team to inquire if Maher would be willing to meet with the group.

“Matt was gracious enough to agree to meet with us, and even provided tickets for the concert at a greatly reduced price,” Westfahl recalled. “He spent about 15 minutes with us.”

During their meeting with Maher, Youth Service Council members gave him one of their t-shirts with the words of his song emblazoned across the front. He encouraged them in their service.

“Faith cannot be lived metaphorically,” Maher said. “We have to live it physically… Service manifests the presence of Christ.”

During the concert, Maher referred to his meeting with the group.

As an introduction to his song, “Love Will Hold Us Together,” he proclaimed,

“Love – it’s like cement. It holds everything together.”

Youth Service Council members met and talked with artist Matt Maher before one of his recent concerts in Waukesha.

Spirituality

Two Youth Service Council members attended the national meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul this year in St. Louis. While there, they visited with Bishop Hying, former National Episcopal Advisor for the National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Bishop Hying said he would love to come to one of the group’s meetings back in Madison.

On Monday, December 4th, Bishop Hying not only attended a Youth Service Council meeting, but presided at a private mass for the group at St. Vincent de Paul — Madison’s Middlecamp Center for Vincentian Charity. He stayed to share dinner with the group and listen to their plans. Members shared with him why they enjoy being in the Youth Service Council. Many of them commented that the service they do is not only valuable to their community, but it is valuable to them.

“When you help others, you get a good look at yourself,” Laura, a high school member, said. “It’s important to listen and be there for people.”

Another member commented that volunteering, giving back and thinking about other people in her community who might be struggling allows her to give a sincere gift of self. She explained that she likes helping people not to make herself look good but because it’s what’s needed.

Service

It was Society of St. Vincent de Paul primary founder (now Blessed) Frédéric Ozanam’s desire that “all young people with both head and heart to assemble for some charitable work.” 

One of the group’s fall initiatives was a Stuffed Sock Drive. They collected warm socks filled with hygiene products for those in need during the chilly winter months. Members conducted drives at their local parishes and returned baskets and bags overflowing with warm socks, mittens, shampoo, body wash, razors, deodorant, lotion, toothpaste and toothbrushes. They sorted the items for distribution through Vinny’s Lockers, the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and other channels in the coming weeks.

The Youth Service Council’s Stuffed Sock Drive collected bags and bags and bags of personal care items to provide to neighbors in need at Vinny’s Lockers and the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry!

 

The St. Vincent de Paul — Madison Youth Service Council is open to high school students who have a desire to grow in service, spirituality, and friendship. Meetings occur one to two times per month during the academic year with events as scheduled by the group. Members serve as representatives for their parish or school and join through an application process. If you or someone you know are interested in joining the YSC, applications open for next academic year in February. Visit svdpmadison.org/join-us and select “Members” to learn about their current work and for the application link.

In August 2021, the National Council of the U.S., Society of St. Vincent de Paul approved the National Safeguarding Policy for all Member Councils to protect the children and vulnerable adults who come to us for help from abuse or exploitation. In 2022, the Madison Diocesan Council and the District Council of Madison of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul each passed a Safeguarding Policy to define our procedures and expectations to fulfill this important charge.

District Council of Madison Safeguarding Policy

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District Council Of Madison Safeguarding Policy FINAL

Consejo de Distrito de Madison Política de Salvaguardia

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Consejo De Distrito De Madison Política De Salvaguardia FINAL

Diocesan Council of Madison Safeguarding Policies:

Dear friends,

As we take time to reflect on 2023, one word comes to mind; MIRACLE.

You are – and truly have been – a miracle to our neighbors in need. You have transformed scarcity into abundance. 

You were there despite a 104% increase in families needing food, medicine, clothing, furniture, and support. In 2023, no one seeking help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison was turned away. Thank you for your compassion for every one of these families.

You are part of a caring community of supporters who believe all people deserve dignity.

In fact, for the first time in her life, Angela has stability thanks to you.

For nearly four decades Angela has struggled with abuse, abandonment, gang violence, mental health issues, and homelessness. Sadly, her four children have also experienced many of these same challenges. Angela is strong and resilient, but needed someone to walk with her and support her to a better tomorrow for her and her kids.

When Angela’s landlord refused to renew her lease and issued an eviction notice, she found her way to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program.

Because of you, she feels confident taking the next steps in her life. She hopes her story of overcoming challenging times gives someone in a similar situation hope and inspiration to keep moving forward. 

Angela connected with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program for help to appeal her eviction notice and prevent her family from becoming homeless. The support – both physical and emotional – she receives allows her to cover her basic needs and focus on goals that will ensure her family’s stability.

The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program exists because of your support. You are a miracle.

Program Director Priscilla Lentini is a passionate advocate for families. She provides them with a listening ear and a boost of encouragement as well as connecting them to legal assistance, quality childcare, employment, and affordable car repair.

Thanks to you, Angela has someone to walk alongside her, someone watching her back to guide her towards the proper resources that will bring restoration and balance in her life.

“When you’re in a place out of your control, and someone tells you it’s going to be okay; it’s powerful,” Angela said. “That is the kind of stuff I need: coping, nurturing. It is healing and fulfilling.”

With you, moms like Angela don’t have to face their challenges alone. They’re able to confidently take the next steps in their life, knowing that they have a real support system around them. It’s a change that transforms their life and the lives of their children.

Thank you for being a miracle in 2023.

In gratitude for you,

 

 

Julie Bennett

CEO & Executive Director

 

*Name changed to protect neighbor’s privacy.

2023 Year-End Giving Deadlines:

If you haven’t made your gift yet and are ready to offer hope and help before year-end, visit: svdpmadison.org/donate

ConnectRx Wisconsin is a program that provides support to African-American / Black high-risk moms during pregnancy and up to one year after the birth of their child.

Community health workers at ConnectRx Wisconsin have their work cut out for them. Babies born to Black mothers in Dane County are two times more likely to be born at low birth weight, often leading to significant health challenges and higher mortality rates.

Thanks to you, community health workers at ConnectRx Wisconsin have an important ally in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison. You are saving lives and improving long term health for our fragile neighbors.

Addressing non-medical needs to improve overall health

ConnectRx Wisconsin was designed to address social determinants of health like transportation, housing and food insecurity for specifically Black moms and provide them with support so they and their babies can thrive. Staff show up wherever their patients needs them to be. They’ll attend housing hearings, write letters of recommendation, loan out technology so clients can apply for jobs, or pick up food and personal care items for patients; a combination of advocacy and education.

These community health workers can rely on St. Vincent de Paul — Madison as full-service partners to fulfill requests for clothing, furniture and food. Some community health workers at ConnectRx Wisconsin pick up eight to ten orders of food from our food pantry for their patients each week. Pantry2Home (online food ordering system) is an especially meaningful service as it saves time and gives patients the flexibility to choose their own food. The pantry and particularly Pantry2Home have been positive “gamechangers” for patients.

Continued benefits of online ordering

You are making a difference today that will last generations.

Nutritious food is essential for maternal and infant health. For moms on limited incomes, it’s difficult to afford high quality produce, meat and pantry staples. Transportation and a lack of money are two of the biggest hurdles patients face.

Access to quality food is especially challenging when moms don’t have reliable transportation, and it’s difficult to travel by public transportation with small children. Pantry2Home saves time for neighbors in need, eliminates food waste, and meets any dietary restrictions or cultural preferences.

Being able to come to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and drive up to a special spot to get the online orders has saved a lot of time for ConnectRx Wisconsin staff. Since the pantry also provides diapers, wipes and some household items, it becomes a helpful one-stop-shop.

In 18 months, ConnectRx Wisconsin has welcomed 137 babies into the world and celebrated 25 first birthdays. You have helped make this happen.

You have helped…

You have helped fill hundreds of online orders containing fresh produce, pantry staples, baking supplies, diapers and household cleaners since Pantry2Home’s inception. Neighbors either pick up these orders in-person at the pantry or schedule an at-home delivery. Since August 2023…

* Names changed to protect the patient’s privacy.

The St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is filled with some wonderful people: retired couples, college students, parents with afternoons to spare. Another group of valuable volunteers are groups! Whether corporate teams, church groups, or clubs, if you have time to spare, your help will be greatly appreciated. Lisa is a longtime volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. She shares how she got involved, what she likes about volunteering and how her workplace supports us as well.

1. How did you first become involved with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison?

In 2016, I joined AprilAire. Within the first week, my manager encouraged me to join a team of employees volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. The great experience I had helping people shop the pantry and getting to know my coworkers was the first of what became many evenings volunteering over the years.

2. How long have you been volunteering?

I’ve been volunteering since 2016. I volunteered at the food pantry during the pre-COVID years when people shopped at the pantry and now as people drive through to pick up food.

3. What do you do as a volunteer?

I have helped carry boxes of cold items as well as bags of bread, fruits, and vegetables to cars but my favorite job has been directing traffic into the pantry. When we are loading food into cars we don’t usually get to interact with people driving through, but when directing traffic you get a smile as people are moving into the final stretch of the pick-up line and often a wave when they have their food and are heading home.

4. Are there any special days that stand out to you as a pantry volunteer?

In terms of group volunteering I’m told Thursdays are generally the busiest day of the week and time for the pantry. It isn’t unusual to have a line of cars going down the street. Before holidays the line can even wrap back around as people wait to pick up food.

5. What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

I am a marketer and have my dream job working for AprilAire in downtown Madison. I was first attracted to working at Aprilaire for two reasons. First, because I feel really good about what we do. Our mission is to make homes healthy. We offer families all the components of a Healthy Air System to improve the air they breathe in their homes. Second, because one of the company’s values is being a “good neighbor.” Making a difference in our community is engrained in the culture and is genuinely supported at every level of the organization.

6. Can you tell me about AprilAire’s involvement with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison and group volunteering?

AprilAire and our parent company, Research Product Corporation, have been long-term supporters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Madison. We provide two food pantry volunteers on Thursdays from 4:00- 6:00 pm, and periodically hold events for employees to donate personal care items for the food pantry or bedding, blankets, and other items to St. Vinny’s Thrift Stores. We also sponsor the annual Care Café fundraising event. In the past we donated backpacks filled with back-to-school supplies for families coming through the food pantry and this fall we are looking into a couple group volunteer events at Lacy Garden to help with the fall harvest and preparing the garden for next spring.

Join the volunteer team! Part-time, flexible positions are available on weekday mornings and afternoons – soon, Saturday mornings too! Visit /join-us/?selected_tab=volunteer-tab or contact Zoe Lavender, Volunteer Coordinator, at zlavender@svdpmadison.org or (608) 442-7200 x71 to help.

Do you believe in miracles? I do.

A sick child leads to a lost job leads to an eviction notice. Two Vincentians visit this neighbor at his home to see how they can help. Another neighbor overhears the conversation through an open window and organizes others in the apartment building to help cover his rent. Two loaves and five fish feed thousands in the Bible story. Two Vincentians and a group of neighbors save a family’s home. Miracles!

Nearly 3,000 households used our food pantry in September. That number grows month after month. Rent increased 14% in Dane County in 2022 and will rise at least another 5% this year. Food prices will rise 6% this year on top of a 10% increase last year. Gas and utility prices remain high. People with limited incomes cannot absorb these cost increases.

Our fiscal year October 2022- September 2023 budget included $320,000 for food and diapers. Yet nearly $900,000 was required to meet the need. Because of your generosity, no hungry neighbor was turned away.

A miracle! You are the miracle that faithfully meets the demand for food and personal care items that is nearly three times higher than it was before the pandemic. I am speechless with gratitude for you.

“The poor you will always have with you” (Mark 14:7). Unfortunately, this prophetic statement has never been more true. Yet because we believe in miracles, we have hope. Hope can come as words or gestures. Hope can also come as food, medicine, clothing, and furniture. When you help the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison, you build hope. Thank you.

Because I believe in miracles, I believe in you.

 

 

 

Julie Bennett
CEO & Executive Director

Spanish-speaking Catholics from several Madison-area parishes began working last fall to establish the first Hispanic Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Diocese of Madison. On April 24, the group adopted bylaws, elected a president, and chose the name, Conferencia Divina Misericordia, Divine Mercy Conference.

To be well-prepared home visitors serving neighbors in need, the new conference members attended a day-long training on April 22. They learned the history of the Society including its founding in 1833 and its spread to become the largest lay Catholic organization in the world.

These new members join more than 800,000 worldwide Society of St. Vincent de Paul members – organized in conferences – who help provide for the needs of neighbors coping with poverty. There are 18 parish-based conferences in Dane County.

In partnership with established conferences, members of Divine Mercy Conference will make home visits to Spanish-speaking neighbors throughout Madison and surrounding communities. They will assist neighbors in need by providing financial assistance, giving furniture and/or household goods vouchers, directing people to the St. Vincent de Paul — Madison Food Pantry and Charitable Pharmacy, or referring people to other assistive agencies. Most importantly, conference members will share the love of Christ with neighbors by offering a listening ear, kind support and their prayers.

“We are grateful to our newest members to have formed this conference,” Julie Bennett, CEO & Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison, said. “It will be a gift to Spanish-speaking neighbors to receive care and support from home-visiting members who speak their native language and share cultural traditions. We see growing needs in our community for essentials like food, clothing and medicine. The Divine Mercy Conference will allow us to serve people who speak Spanish with a higher level of dignity and respect. I am awed by their commitment – as I am for all our members who go to people in need to offer help and hope.”

The Divine Mercy Conference invites any Spanish-speaking volunteers who are interested in joining the conference to attend one of their monthly meetings. The conference meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church at 6:00 pm. For more information, please email Membership Director Gayle Westfahl at gwestfahl@svdpmadison.org.

Experts teach about systemic challenges

Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison gathered on April 22 to learn from a panel of experts about the challenges faced by people who are incarcerated and those who are re-entering the community after incarceration. Consisting of conference member volunteers, staff and panelists, the group discussed how they might help people individually within their parish conferences or whether the Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison might consider developing a program of support.

Panel experts and discussion topics included:

After hearing from the panelists, participants engaged in small-group discussions.

After hearing from the panelists, participants engaged in small-group discussions about what they had learned, how they might help people, and barriers to becoming involved. Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Madison Associate Executive Director, Amy Overby, facilitated the training and gathered reflections from participants.

“Our conference member volunteers want to better understand the challenges faced by our neighbors leaving incarceration so that we can better walk alongside them. This discussion will guide further steps in this area to address the Vincentian question that shapes all our work “what must be done?” Amy Overby shared.

In tandem with efforts of the Diocese of Madison and other local agencies, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Madison will continue exploring challenges faced by people who are incarcerated and those re-entering the community.