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LaDonna, “It feels good to be part of the community helping people.”

LaDonna, a St. Vincent de Paul — Madison donor, credits her upbringing for informing her desire to give back to her community. “I help people because there have been people that have helped me,” she said.

With her four siblings, LaDonna lived most of her childhood with her aunt and uncle. She remembers her aunt was a great cook, they always had a roof over their heads, clean clothes and full tummies. One year, her dad remarried and she and her siblings lived with him briefly. That year, LaDonna remembers going hungry as there wasn’t enough to eat; sometimes going to bed in tears from hunger pains. She and her siblings eventually moved back in with their aunt and uncle, but the memories of being hungry stuck with her.

Her childhood experiences instilled in LaDonna a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings in her life and a strong desire to help others. As an adult, she found ways to give back, supporting causes like Second Harvest Foodbank, St. Vincent de Paul — Madison and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. For her, giving isn’t just about providing food or medical care; it’s about extending a hand to those in need, just as others once did for her.

“For me, it doesn’t matter where [my support] goes, just that it helps people,” LaDonna explained. “That’s the thing that makes me feel good. It’s helping other people that don’t have what I have, the things I’ve been blessed in life to have – a roof over my head, clean clothing, food.”

Now retired, LaDonna and her husband are active with friends, good food, and travel. She admires SVdP — Madison for its full-picture approach to helping our community, from providing food and clothing to offering housing assistance and medicine.

While she doesn’t remember her initial encounter with the group, she was inspired to get more involved after hearing about the experiences her sister and brother-in-law in Phoenix had with their local Society.

“It feels good to be part of the community helping people,” LaDonna said. “I’m happy to be part of this community and it’s something I don’t really think about! Sometimes we’re cocooned in our world – happy – but don’t think about others. I’m happy to be involved!”

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Nicholas in Mexico.

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

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:

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.

Read how your care, compassion and encouragement help neighbors in need. Current edition: 24 Summer NL

24 Summer NL










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.

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

Poverty never takes a day off. It is a relentless burden that causes anxiety and distress – especially for children. By becoming a Sustaining Samaritan, you’ll give help and hope to neighbors in need all year long! Here are five reasons donors choose to give monthly:

You could provide:

Get started:


Want to increase your monthly gift? Please email or call Eric Fleming, Director of Development, at (608) 278-2920 x34, or email