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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!

What is a conference? Who are members? A brief history and overview of current service provided by St. Vincent de Paul member conferences in Dane County

 

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.”

Four volunteers loading food pantry donations into metal carts. Two volunteers standing behind a table for a blanket drive.

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.

A volunteer standing in front of a table of brown grocery bags for a food drive.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 gwestfahl@svdpmadison.org.

This flyer details each St. Vincent de Paul conference across the Diocese of Madison along with an explanation of the services provided.

Goods storage for people experiencing homelessness returns after fire last fall

 

Vinny’s Lockers 2 opened in July, following a building remodel project to replace the original Vinny’s Lockers, which was lost to fire last November. This program, the only one of its kind in Dane County, provides long-term storage of goods for people experiencing homelessness.

Volunteers helping clients move items into Vinny’s Lockers 2 on opening day!

The original Vinny’s Lockers building was demolished and removed after the fire. St. Vincent de Paul facilities staff spent months remodeling a building on the same site to suit the needs of the program.

Clients using Vinny’s Lockers often store items such as off-season clothing, tools or household goods. People who lost goods in the fire last fall received St. Vinny’s Thrift Store vouchers and box store gift cards to replace their belongings.

“It was a great relief to have a place to store my things when I was homeless and jobless,” said Marco*, who had made use of Vinny’s Lockers. “It allowed me to save some important documents and was a safe place to save some of my valuable items. Vinny’s Lockers helped me a lot.”

 

To learn more, please visit: Vinny’s Lockers

 

Scholarships propel students Kareena and Juan Carlos and their families to pursue shared dreams.

 

Juan Carlos graduated from Madison East High School in 2019. Kareena graduated from LaFollette High School this year. Both know that a college education could help them escape poverty and allow them to assist their families which remain in need. But could they achieve their dreams of becoming the first college graduates in their families?

Every academic year, the Youth Service Council (YSC) of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul—Madison provides post-high school scholarships to area students whose families have lower incomes. In addition, the family of each scholarship recipient receives material support in the form of rent aid and grocery store gift cards.

YSC scholar Juan Carlos

Catholic high school students across Dane County join the YSC to share faith, fellowship, and opportunities for service with other area teens. YSC members say that raising money to provide scholarships for students who would otherwise have difficulty attending college is their most meaningful project each year.

“Tonight mattered,” explained YSC member Peyton, describing the group’s review of each application to determine how to allocate the funds raised to students in need and their families. “We gave money in a way that is tailored to each family’s needs.”

Kareena and Juan Carlos attest to the importance of the assistance for their families in addition to the help with tuition.

“Since I could, I’ve worked to make money to help my family,” Kareena shared. “This scholarship will help my family have money for rent and for food. That makes it a lot easier for me to focus on my studies.”

 

Juan Carlos lives with his sister and her family. His father died when he was eight, and his mother lives in Mexico. He agrees the added support helps him stay in college.

“I knew that I wanted to do more studying after high school, and it was going to be hard. I don’t have my parents with me. It’s hard to pay for college – it’s really expensive. The extra money for my family allows me to focus more and keep my mind off of money problems.”

 

Juan Carlos will complete the liberal arts transfer program at Madison College this fall, then plans to finish his engineering studies at UW-Madison. Kareena starts at UW-Madison this fall and intends to pursue studies in health science.

Both students are grateful to St. Vincent de Paul and the wider community’s support. They look forward to a brighter  future when they can help their families and community.