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.
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.
“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
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!
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.
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
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!”
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 Charitable 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.
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
Moises and Rosa have been long-time St. Vincent de Paul—Madison clients. On one September afternoon, the couple visited the Food Pantry and Charitable Pharmacy using our newest service, a free Uber ride!
Thanks to a partnership with Project Finish Line, our Charitable Pharmacy is proud to offer patients free rides to and from their COVID-19 vaccinations. As transportation is a common barrier to receiving healthcare, offering free rides increases the pharmacy’s accessibility.
The couple’s afternoon began with a phone call from a pharmacy volunteer in their preferred language, Spanish. The volunteer confirmed the plans that Uber would pick up the couple and bring them to St. Vincent de Paul. Upon arrival, the car first accessed the drive-through Food Pantry and was loaded with fresh produce, bakery, meat, eggs and pantry staples.
Talking with a volunteer pharmacist, the couple checked into the pharmacy and awaited Moises’ prescriptions. After discussing his current health, Moises received his flu vaccine. In previous weeks, the couple were one of dozens of patients to receive their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine through our pharmacy.
In talking with the couple, volunteers heard that their granddaughter had been sleeping on the floor. Was the couple aware St. Vincent de Paul provides furniture vouchers? Staff contacted the couple the next morning to connect them with a furniture voucher so their granddaughter could receive an air mattress.
Throughout the afternoon a pharmacy volunteer provided Spanish translation for the couple to ensure they received the correct information. Another pharmacy volunteer brought Moises his prescriptions. With photos and diagrams, she explained each medication and any new changes. The bottles contained instructional stickers in Spanish and clear patient guidelines.
After receiving a flu vaccine, after loading the car full of pantry staples, after receiving essential medications, after talking with staff and volunteers about their current situation, the couple went back into the Uber to head home.
Since May, SVdP has delivered free, renal-diet-friendly foods monthly for 50+ patients, who have failing kidneys.
Berkley identified a need, and St. Vincent de Paul helped her and Fresenius Kidney Care find a solution for dialysis patients at the Fitchburg clinic.
“Many of our patients face barriers ranging from fatigue (12+ hours of treatment every week), transportation and physical mobility difficulties, limited diets, and most do not have jobs,” said Berkley. “St. Vincent de Paul is able to provide foods that support healthy kidneys and deliver it right to our patients at the clinic.”
“When Berkley reached out, we said, ‘Absolutely, let’s make this happen’,” said Chris Kane, SVdP Director of Client Services. “This is a great way to literally help our neighbors in need.”
“This has been awesome to see and very impactful,” added Berkley. “Hopefully, we can continue to learn our patients’ needs and also expand to our sister clinic in the future.”