Strengthen your spirit by serving others?
There’s a group of people who devote their time to help people across neighborhood’s throughout the Greater Pittsburgh region. Many of you may recognize the name only because you have shopped in, driven by, or donated to one of their thrift stores – St. Vincent de Paul.
But this organization, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) helps our neighbors and communities in many more ways than just by the stores we see.
It’s the things we don’t see happening every day that can make the biggest difference in people’s lives.
James Taylor, of the Pittsburgh area’s Society of SVdP says, “We help all populations that are in need. We do not discriminate on the basis of race or religious affiliation. If you are in need, we try to help if we can. The work is important because no person should go without clothing, food, or shelter and there have to be organizations like St. Vincent de Paul to help people who need that assistance.”
Now that is what it’s all about, isn’t it folks? No one. No-One-Person should ever go without those basic needs.
Al Bannon, a Vincentian who volunteers his time and one-to-one help for families in need living in the Crafton area, describes his involvement, “The main goal (of a Vincentian) is to develop themselves spiritually, and it is by helping others and doing God’s work that builds our spirituality. I didn’t realize before I became a member that this was a vocation; that it’s a calling that God wants you to do. I just wanted to help people.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul needs your help on October 3 during Pittsburgh Gives Day of Giving. This is the one day each year where your online donations of at least $25, given to any participating nonprofit, can earn additional funds from a match pool given by The Pittsburgh Foundation.
What can those Day of Giving (DOG) donations do for SVdP?
“The funding from DOG will allow us to reach more people. The additional funding would help us purchase new beds for clients who are sleeping on the floor. It would allow us to help pay many more gas, water, and electric bills and (assist with) rent. It would allow us to be able to purchase more food for our food pantry; we could help with more indigent burials. It would help us reach and help more people,” says Mr. Taylor.
Have they seen an increase in the need for assistance in the last year?
“Our Food pantry has had to increase the amount of food it orders from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. We have had to hold more food drives than before to help fill in the gaps.
Many of our local St. Vincent de Paul conferences are seeing an increase in people needing financial assistance, furniture assistance, and clothing assistance requests. In response to this increased need, conferences (or each of the smaller, local, and independent extensions of SVdP) have had to stretch their increasing small funds in order to reach as many people as possible.
We have seen an increase in people seeking clothing and furniture vouchers as well. Luckily, we are still receiving donations from our generous donors.”
If you would like to donate clothing, household items, or furniture you can do so by calling 412-321-1071 and selecting ‘option one’ to schedule a pick-up.
St. Vincent de Paul also reaches formerly incarcerated individuals in a residential facility, named Michael’s Place.
Yearly, 29 people are helped at this temporary home for ex-offenders who are “ready to commit themselves to making good decisions for a productive future.” Currently, the cost per resident is slightly under $10,000.
Those who work at Michaels’s Place remind us that “sometimes it is difficult not to judge others on the mistakes they have made. We might look upon a person struggling with addiction or with a past record with contempt, saying ‘he should have known better.’”
By taking some time to “walk in their shoes,” and understand how they can truly help these men, they work without judgment to help them build a fresh and positive future. For more from former Michael’s Place graduates, see this post.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international organization with over 900,000 members and operates in over 130 countries. The SVdP Council of Pittsburgh began in 1852 and is made up of 111 Conferences that serve, Lawrence, Butler, Beaver, Allegheny, and Washington Counties.
Mr. Bannon shares a few final thoughts on why following the call to help others is important to those who choose to work within SVdP. “I’ve been a member for 18 years and I have never regretted one moment of it. For us, there are two main reasons (to become a member). One is that you’ll become a better Catholic and a better person. And two, you’ll be helping those in need. You will have a stronger love for your neighbor.”
Simply Put – Show the strength of love for your neighbors and help St. Vincent de Paul with your matched donation on Pittsburgh’s Day of Giving.
Every so often, if we are lucky, someone truly amazing crosses our path. For me, this person is Joyce Rothermel. To those that know her, she is a tiny woman with a big life force that has worked her entire life to help others. From the noble idea that everyone deserves to live life without hunger, a small project became a lifetime goal that has resulted in what is now the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank(GPCFB). Her vision has helped create other organizations, as well as provided a voice for those that might otherwise go unheard. She is known not just in Pittsburgh, but around the country for her work in feeding and advocating for the impoverished.
But, it is more than the accomplishments she has under her belt that make her something special. I first met Joyce Rothermel at the Empty Bowls Dinner this year. Being an advocate for hunger awareness, as well as always wanting to connect people to great stories as a correspondent for Pittsburgh On Video, I asked Joyce to talk with me on camera. I have no real explanation for what happened when we went aside to start her interview.
We sat down and discussed a few things before starting the camera to get ourselves on the same page. And then, I looked into her eyes. If it is true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, then hers is the most pure and honest I have ever known. Just being in her presence brought me to tears. I am sure she thought I was a bit odd, although she was most gracious and said nothing, even though I had to stop the camera and restart our interview. Words can’t really describe what it is like when you’re with Joyce. Her smile is infectious and somehow she combines sweetness with determination. When you are with her, you just know you are with someone special. I still get weepy when I think of our meeting or read and watch things about her. I’m envious of people who work with her.
After 30 years of being the founder and CEO of the GPCFB, Joyce Rothermel retired from her position on June 30th. I have to say, I was a little sad to have met her at the end of her tenure. In our brief meeting she inspired me to be just a little better than I was before; to give more of myself to others when possible; to keep goals and dreams in focus- both mine and those of others. She motivates me to think bigger and be kinder. And she probably has no idea of the effect she has on others.
I approached Christopher Whitlatch who curates the Pittsburgh On Video site for the Pittsburgh Foundation with the idea of putting together a video tribute piece as a correspondent with people who have worked or interacted with Joyce. The idea was then developed as a feature for their online bi-monthly non-profit news show, Unsung. With his help, we put out the word and gathered several individuals who shared their thoughts about Joyce with me. The following is Unsung-Episode 5 with a clip of my interviews:
I’m grateful to have met Ms. Rothermel. Her impact in our brief meeting will last a lifetime. She has such infallible logic and a keen sense of what is needed. Her vision reaches a broad spectrum and her focus is one step ahead of others. Her pure love of humanity and dedication to meeting the needs of those less fortunate is inspiring. We could all take a lesson from her book of life.
To Joyce, I would say thank you for being the person you are. Your tireless work and dedicated efforts have meant and will continue to mean the world to so many. You are not just a true hero to us, you are like a patron saint to the hungry.
Simply Put- One person really can make a difference in the lives of others.
Full interviews will be available on Pittsburgh On Video‘s Unsung-Uncut soon. Anyone that has a story about or thought for Joyce Rothermel is invited to leave a comment to this post.