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For Dan Millmann, volunteering has always been on his radar.

After retiring from a 37-year career as a CPA, he volunteers at several places throughout town: the Catholic Multicultural Center, Queen of Peace Parish, Madison Children’s Museum. He’s the president of Madison South Rotary and joined the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry team last fall.

“In my mind, I always knew that I would work and once I was done I would volunteer and give back,” Dan said.

Growing up in Wauwatosa, Dan’s father modeled volunteering. Dan also credits the Catholic education he received from kindergarten through high school for instilling the value of volunteering in him. He said it’s a shared mission to help our neighbors.

“Through high school, there was always something [volunteering] there,” Dan said. “My dad was active in the church and as a family, we would volunteer. It’s always been in my mind that you do things like that and I’m just wired that way.”

Volunteering is something Dan has modeled now for his kids, both graduating this year; one from high school, one from college. He acknowledges young adults and young professionals are often strained for time, as he was early in his career. Volunteering can fall down the priority list after raising a family, managing a home, or working full-time.

Yet, he’s impressed by the number of college students volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry today. 

Camaraderie 

His awareness of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry began at his church on the west side of Madison and grew after a tour of the pantry several years ago. Looking for a volunteer opportunity close to home, he contacted the pantry and called to see how he could help. He didn’t have any specific idea what we wanted to do, how he could help, or all that was going on, but the staff put him right to work!

As a table loader now for the outdoor, drive-through pantry, Dan gets to do an active role and connect with new people. He values the camaraderie of a diverse volunteer team.

“I was looking for something to itch the social side of me and connect with people,” Dan said. “What I do now does both of those things. This gives me the opportunity to give back. It makes me feel productive and I get to talk with a bunch of interesting people I never would have met. We’re all people looking to give back and it’s fun to be a part of and associated with this group of people.”

Helping people get food

Dan is passionate about helping people get food. He found that volunteering at the pantry was a natural and organized way to do that.

“Access to food and food insecurity – covering basic needs for families – were some things that were important to me personally,” Dan said “So giving people what they need so they don’t go hungry and have access to food. I wanted to do whatever I could to help with that.”

The need for food is great, Dan continued, and it’s everywhere. Just about every town across the county has a small pantry of its own, he’s learned. The work of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and all of the pantries in the area is so important; they’re filling a huge need.

“I don’t know what we would do without pantries like this,” Dan said. “I can’t imagine a country like ours having people who didn’t want to take care of their community.”

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

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 St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in Madison.

Pill organizers and schedules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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.

Each week, hundreds of households turn to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry for food. If you care about food security, helping your community and lending a hand to people in need, then join our volunteer team!

Requirements:

Ready to help? Apply now or contact Zoe Lavender for more information.

Open positions:

Help on Saturdays

We have reopened our pantry on Saturdays, 10am- 12pm! Lend a hand to load food outside, stock tables, check-in pantry users, and package food.

Load food outside

If you would prefer to work outside assisting with our drive-through food pantry, this would be the position for you! Your primary responsibility would be to load food into vehicles as they come through the drive-through.  This does require a bit more lifting and carrying, the items will be about 15- 20 pounds. (We do need a weekly commitment for this specific volunteer duty).

Control drive-through traffic

Have you always wanted to be a crossing guard? Is blaze yellow your color of choice? We have an opportunity you can’t miss! Join the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry volunteer team as a traffic controller. As the pantry gets busier, help cars navigate the line and keep everyone safe.

Pack food boxes

This position involves filling boxes or bags with canned and dry goods (between 15- 18 pounds). Package pantry staples, cooking supplies and nonperishable items. You will also stock and sort some food donations.

Stock shelves/tables

This position requires lifting and transporting cases of food. The cases can weigh up to 20 pounds, but many are not as heavy (between 10- 15 pounds). We have pallets of food stored in the back of the pantry and this job will entail taking a flat pushcart into the back and bringing up cases of canned and dry goods to stock the table that our food box packers are using to fill their boxes.

Sort and package food

We are in need of volunteers to assist with sorting food donations and packaging them into bags so they can be distributed outside in the drive-through. We are currently limited in morning availability however we are in need of volunteers for the afternoon shifts to help with a second round of bagging food once our pantry is in full swing for the day.

Fill online orders

We are in need of volunteers to help fill our online order requests. This job serves as a personal shopper. You’ll be given a list of items for an order and you’ll package them into bags and boxes accordingly. This will include various dry goods, dairy and frozen meat. Once the order is complete, you’ll label the orders and organize them onto shelves to await pickup.

 

Why volunteer? Learn new skills, build relationships and have fun:

9 Benefits of Volunteering