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A lifelong volunteer and health care professional, Kathy moved to Madison after nursing school. She spent the bulk of her working career in the NICU at St. Mary’s Hospital. She retired in 2013 and began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy.

“I knew about the stores,” Kathy said. “I first started in the food pantry and volunteered there for about six months. Then someone told me there was a pharmacy downstairs. So, I came down and stopped going upstairs,” Kathy laughed.

Above and beyond volunteer service

When she began volunteering, Kathy was the “welcome window lady.” She checked patients into the pharmacy and confirmed their prescriptions were ready for pickup. She continues this role now with the curbside process and fields questions from people about the certification process or the pharmacy in general.

Kathy always goes above and beyond her duties as a volunteer. She sees a problem and works to fix it.

For example, she regularly answers calls from people interested in donating items to the pharmacy. For medications the pharmacy can accept, she supplies the needed information for folks to do so. For medical supplies, the pharmacy cannot accept she coordinates with a friend, Mary Dowling, at Sharing Resources Worldwide to donate supplies to medical missions in Honduras.

A while ago, Kathy noticed the supply of expired donated medicines that the pharmacy couldn’t use. Kathy worked out an agreement with Officer Barret R. Erwin at the UW-Madison Police Department to safely dispose of the medications. Thanks to Officer Barret, the station accepts and disposes of the medications for free rather than having the pharmacy pay to dispose of them.

“I just had this thought; UW Police isn’t too far away,” Kathy recalls. “Since we’re a nonprofit, they’ll take the medications for free. I collect the unused medications and coordinate a time to drop them off. If there’s a simple way to take care of something that’s not terribly out of my way, I can do that.”

The best aspects of volunteering

Kathy is grateful the pharmacy accommodates her flexible schedule and that she doesn’t have to find a substitute when she is sick or on vacation. She is grateful for expanding her network, and the best aspects of volunteer have been the people and patients.

“It’s the people. The people you get to know,” Kathy said. “The patients who know your name, especially when they came to the window. They have all been very nice and generous. We laugh a lot.”

“My idea of retirement is that you work or you volunteer at a place so you can expand the group of people that you know,” Kathy continued. “ You have to keep active in retirement. Find your niche and volunteer to share your skills. Find what you want to do and find where you can be helpful.”

A heart to help people

If the pharmacy didn’t exist, it would be a daily struggle for patients with diabetes to find regular medications and more people would end up in the Emergency Room, Kathy said. The care that the pharmacy volunteers and staff provide helps lower patients’ stress.

“I think St. Vincent de Paul is a good organization that works with people who need help,” Kathy said. “Everyone involved is committed to improving the community and helping others. All of the places I volunteer help people with low incomes.”

Besides her longtime commitment to the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy Kathy has volunteered at Specialty Care Free Clinic in Madison since 2011. As the only free specialty clinic for uninsured patients in the state, the clinic sends numerous patients to the pharmacy for their prescriptions. She also volunteers at the Lacy Food Pantry Garden where she helps plant, grow and harvest produce for distribution at the pantry. She is an avid sewer and donates her handmade quilts to Open Doors for Refugees.

Join the volunteer team! Click here or contact Zoe Lavender, Volunteer Coordinator, at or (608) 442-7200 x71 to help.