These days, going to work at St. Vincent de Paul feels a bit like I imagine it would to step into Santa’s Workshop. With bags stuffed with toys around every corner, boxes of glistening candy canes stacked high, and mountains of freshly folded winter clothes looming-up from table tops like mountains, it’s hard not to feel the warm glow of the holidays seeping in.
At St. Vincent de Paul, spreading holiday cheer is serious business. We have more 1500 kids each year that depend on our organization to make their holiday season special. Between our annual Santa Shop, Santa Breakfast, and the Christmas Trees that are sent to local businesses, there is no way that we could meete needs of our community without our outstanding team of volunteers. In honor of the individuals that support our mission (at Christmas and throughout the year) I decided to interview some of SVDP’s most dedicated volunteers.
If you have ever visited St. Vincent de Paul Wednesday afternoon, you have almost certainly had the joy of meeting the Wednesday Ladies. This wonderful trio of women, comprised of Joyce Cecil, Mary Weckman, and Eileen Greenwell, are affectionately referred to by this moniker for their weekly presence at our organization.
Volunteers at nonprofit organizations tend to come and go, so I am always fascinated to meet individuals who demonstrate the kind of long term commitment that the Wednesday Ladies and many of our volunteers at SVDP do. I wanted to learn more about their motivation for supporting St. Vincent de Paul and what keeps them coming back week after week.
I began the interview with questions about how each of the women came to volunteer at SVDP. Joyce, who began volunteering SVDP 8 years ago talked about the sense of fulfillment she received from being part of a community that is dedicated to helping others. She says “St. Vincent de Paul is a place you can rely upon to take care of things that need to be taken care of.” This is a sentiment that was echoed by the other women in the group; Mary, who has been a constant presence at the organization since 2006, stated that she feels St. Vincent de Paul is a valuable resource in our community. They recognize the importance of the work that St. Vincent de Paul does, and they want to be a part of it.
I asked the women why they had chosen SVDP in the first place, and I noticed that for each of them, their connection to the organization was rooted in important relationships they have outside of SVDP. Eileen mentioned being inspired by her daughter to serve her community. Joyce was encouraged to volunteer by her husband, who at one point worked at St. Vincent de Paul. Mary joined at the suggestion of her Conference at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. For each of them, volunteering was a tie to their larger community and/or a way to honor the work of people that they love.
Another factor that has undoubtedly played into the women’s commitment is the quality of the relationships they have formed at SVDP. When I asked them what their favorite memories of St. Vincent de Paul were, they immediately agreed that their Wednesday projects were a defining part of their experience as volunteers. They look forward to coming to SVDP each week to work, socialize, and enjoy lunch together.
To wrap up my interview with Joyce, Eileen, and Mary, I wanted to find out what aspects of St. Vincent de Paul’s mission and values they consider most important. Together, they have a contributed 30 years of service to St. Vincent de Paul, so they know the organization better than just about anyone.
Eileen stated that if she were talking to a stranger about St. Vincent de Paul, she would tell them to “Donate and Volunteer because of all the good work they do.” It is always a good sign when people that know a nonprofit organization as well as they do want to draw others in. Joyce agreed, stressing that she believes St. Vincent de Paul is a trustworthy business; “it is a reliable place to make donations and give money,” she said.
It was wonderful interviewing the Wednesday Ladies this week and learning more about what motivates them to be part of our community. St. Vincent de Paul is a big place, and we are always looking for people that share our commitment to ending poverty. To learn more about our organization, how to get involved, or make a donation, head to our website at https://www.svdplou.org.