Spring 2020

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Society of St. Vincent de Paul—Cincinnati District Council

DEAR FRIENDS, Bart Kohler and Becky Catino stepped into unknown territory in the fall of 2015. St. Vincent de Paul had launched a comprehensive campaign to raise money for a new outreach center and to enhance the financial fund it had set aside to help its 56 parish-based Conferences. What made the territory unchartered was the goal: $12 million. Nowhere in St. Vincent de Paul’s history had that much money been raised before. The only thing that made the goal not totally overwhelming was that Bart and Becky agreed to be the campaign’s co-chairs. If anyone—or any two— could get the job done, it was them. Fast forward to this past December. Not only did they deliver on the goal, but the new Don and Phyllis Neyer Outreach Center was opened, and the Conferences had more money to serve our neighbors. So it was only befitting that the duo were picked to be honored at this year’s Celebration of Service event scheduled for May 14. The event honors those who have shown a strong commitment to the mission and service of St. Vincent de Paul.

Conference: Christ the King in Mt. Lookout. How long have you been a Vincentian? I started after I retired 13 years ago. How did you become a Vincentian? I was volunteering in the food pantry on Bank Street one Saturday morning, and one of the Vincentians

Fast forward again to January, February and March, as news began to trickle in—and then flood in— about the coronavirus. Little by little the world shut down. Events everywhere were cancelled, and unfortunately the Celebration of Service event honoring Becky and Bart was cancelled as well—or at least postponed until May 13, 2021. Still, not having Celebration of Service left a gaping hole in St. Vincent de Paul’s plans—and budget. At the event, the community not only honors the recipients, it helps raise money in their names for St. Vincent de Paul’s homelessness prevention fund. The event was expected to add $250,000 to that fund. That’s a big loss. And added to that loss, was the closure of our thrift stores on March 19. So, as we are trying to address a boom in demand as a result of the coronavirus, our resources are being reduced. How do you make up for the losses? Lead gifts from the Greenacres Foundation, Catino Family Foundation, Ed and Joann Hubert Family Foundation, Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Foundation, The Kroger Company Foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s COVID-19 Regional

Response Fund, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Rotary Club of Cincinnati and the Heidt Family Foundation were an excellent way to start. But much of the support also comes from many of you. A wish list was created on Amazon for muchneeded items for the food pantry. A donation page was set up on Facebook. Emails were sent out asking for help, including our wellreceived “Double from a Distance Days” campaign. People are collecting items to donate to our stores once they reopen. Your collective response has been awesome! I know there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, but I am confident we can meet the ever increasing demand for our services. We can’t do it though, without your ongoing support. Now, more than ever, let’s be… Neighbors helping Neighbors.

Dan Long St. Vincent de Paul Board President

from Christ the King suggested I come to one of their meetings. I went to the meeting, liked it, and immediately changed parishes and joined the Christ the King Conference. I’ve been there ever since. How did you get to know St. Vincent de Paul? A few months earlier, we had sent in a modest contribution and received back a nice note from Liz Carter, our prior Executive Director. That prompted me to ask one of our officers at Fifth Third to set up a meeting with Liz so I could meet her. Following that meeting, Liz invited me to come down to Bank St. to discuss volunteer opportunities. It’s kind of humorous; I remember the first meeting with her, I latched on to the idea of working in the pantry right away. When she mentioned home visits, I remember thinking to myself, there’s no way I could do that, but of course I’ve been making home visits ever since as a Vincentian!

Vincentian Spotlight: Jim Dodd What do you enjoy doing the most? I enjoy being with other Vincentians and helping our neighbors that come to the pantry to shop. Being able to connect with the people is what makes it so rewarding for me. Is there anything else you want to add? The one thing I would say is had I known that being a Vincentian was as rewarding as it is, I probably would have retired a lot sooner. See more Vincentian stories online at SVDPcincinnati.org. 2


A new reality Mid-morning. Late March. A cheerfully sunny day. Tamara

Thrasher stands near the start of the long drive that spans the rear of the Don and Phyllis Neyer Outreach Center, a few feet back from a sign placed just off to the side of the road: “Pantry Pick-up—Stop Here.” As neighbors drive into the center seeking food assistance, Tamara checks their name against a list on a clipboard she’s carrying and uses a walkie-talkie to call to others inside the Gil and Joan McLean Food Pantry Processing Center. Instead of letting neighbors walk through the pantry and choose their food from the shelves, employees are now packing pre-selected food into plastic bags and placing them on stainless steel racks just outside

the warehouse’s double doors. At Tamara’s instruction, the drivers pull up, get out, pull the bags of food from the shelves and load them into their cars. Social distancing is maintained. No contact is made. Across the country, the coronavirus—more formally known as Covid-19—is in the midst of impacting every business, and St.

Vincent de Paul is no exception. With so many neighbors depending on the organization’s services for survival, St. Vincent de Paul was deemed an “essential” business, so shutting the doors and putting the entire operation on hold was not an option. Still, adjustments had to be made, and shifting the food pantry operations from an in-store experience to a curbside pick-up model is quite possibly the most dramatic—although it is not alone. Continued on page 4

By virtue of the work many Vincentians do – make home

visits, pray together, provide emotional support – the coronavirus is a significant threat to them being able to do the work they love. So it would be natural to think— perhaps even expected—that they would back off of their service a little as the virus spreads. Maybe they would even shut down their Conference. Nope. As late April turned to early May and the curve began to flatten, not one Conference stopped providing services. In fact, they actually increased their services in order to meet the increased demand from neighbors. “They’re heroes. They’re living their faith,” says Sunnie Lain, Director of Conferences and Service Learning.

“They have been both courageous and creative. Sure, they all moved to a delivery or drive-through method, and they have been doing things over the phone instead of by making home visits. But there’s still a fair number of Conferences making porch deliveries of food or Kroger cards. Some have started utilizing younger parishioners who are less vulnerable to help—and hopefully keep them involved after this is over. Some are coming down to the Neyer Outreach Center and picking up food to deliver to their neighbors. A few Conferences started calling neighbors to check on them before they could even call in for assistance. In one case, they even started sending cards to those neighbors they knew were homebound.” Not only is their commitment and dedication heartwarming, she says,

but there might even be a silver lining emerging from within this coronavirus cloud. The Conferences and the District Council office are working as closely as ever. With 90 percent of Conferences receiving their revenue from Fifth Sunday donations—and no donations coming in as parishes cancelled services—the amount of money made available through the Ed and Joann Hubert Family Conference Assistance Fund has dramatically increased. Sharing of best practices on ways to help neighbors during the pandemic has increased. Spiritual support has increased. “I’ve used my degree in pastoral ministry more in the last six weeks than at any other single time,” says Lain. In the coming months, as the curve decreases and everyone settles into whatever the new normal is, this will be a time to look back on and view with pride—and exactly what Frederic Ozanam envisioned a Vincentian would be. SVDPCINCINNATI.ORG


for corporate workers looking to understand the struggles of life in the poor lane. Prior to the pandemic, she was prepping for what was lined up to be one of the busiest summers the Ozanam Center had seen in a while: nine straight weeks of overnight retreats. As the virus began overtaking the country, however, the cancellation calls started coming. The idea of having a large group of high school or college students packed together was too great of a risk, so one by one the organizers retreated from the retreats.

On the other side of the building, the Charitable Pharmacy closed its pick-up counter and is operating out of a vestibule next to a side entrance, placing medicine on a makeshift table just outside of the door and instructing patients by phone to approach the table and pick up their prescriptions. All rent and utility assistance shifted to being done by phone. The changes were the culmination of a series of decisions that began in early March, as news spread about the virus inching closer to Cincinnati. Steps were put in place to restrict its impact. Hands were washed. Purell was purchased. Cleaning was enhanced. Bit by bit, as the weeks progressed, services were either halted or altered. Partner organizations such as the eye and dental clinics were asked to close their operations. Conferences were given the option to discontinue home visits. One-on-one meetings with neighbors were switched to socially safer phone calls. Volunteers were sent home. The thrift stores were initially scaled back and then shuttered.

Employees, too, found themselves caught up in the shift. Those who were usually in social services were asked to move to the processing center and


Thousands of people in the city were already living paycheck to paycheck and on the edge of poverty, and as the job losses mounted at record rates and their sources of revenue gone, they found themselves having to turn to St. Vincent de Paul for help. One woman worked in a restaurant and relied on whatever leftovers there were at the end of the night to help feed her children. Then the restaurant closed, leaving her without money or food. She came to the pantry, and her kids now have food. Another restaurant worker

pack pantry bags. Those who usually answered questions at the front desk were asked to shift and answer phones in the Call Center. Operations and Conferences staff filled in wherever they were needed most at the moment. Understanding and flexibility became the standard operating procedure.

Under previous circumstances, Tamara would be tucked behind a desk in a small office on the second floor of the Liz Carter Center on the other side of Bank Street. She is director of the Ozanam Center, which provides a wide range of educational services, from overnight retreats for high school and college students to poverty simulations 4

For Tamara, the shift to the frontlines of social services was both engaging and eye-opening. While she previously worked in social services and knew the neighbors well, what she found was a lot of new faces and a lot of new stories.

found herself out of work and couldn’t pay her rent. It was paid for her, and now she doesn’t have to worry about being evicted during the crisis. A former Pharmacy patient who got laid off of his job and couldn’t afford his prescription co-pays returned for help. His prescriptions were transferred and filled. The stories continue.

Day by day it became increasingly clear that the coronavirus was becoming a generational event, one of those moments that delineate a lifetime. There have been others— 9/11, great floods, recessions, depressions, war—when the already difficult lives of ordinary people become that much more difficult. Hindsight with the previous events offered lessons and changes. Maybe this one will as well. For the moment, though, what’s truly most important is those who are lined up at the pantry drive-thru seeking food, or walking up to the vestibule where the pharmacy has relocated its pick-up window. It’s making sure people are helped. That’s the heart of the mission, and that never changes.

A NEW NEIGHBOR Rhondisa Williams is one of the few people in the world

who can understand a medical insurance claim form. It’s a skill she honed over the last two years as a customer service rep for Anthem, a solid job that allowed her to move into a larger apartment and support her 2-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter. Then came coronavirus. With surgeries cancelled and doctor’s visits held to emergencies, fewer claims were being filed and fewer questions were in need of answers. Along with the rest of her department, she was given two weeks pay and a promise that she could have her job back once the pandemic was over—whenever that might be. Suddenly, her normally stable world got flipped upside down. With no income, while waiting on Government funding to become accessible, Rhondisa found herself in a financial bind. The kids needed food and diapers, and rent for her new apartment was looming large. As a result, she became one of the rapidly growing number of neighbors who found themselves impacted by the pandemic in need of asking St. Vincent de Paul for help.

In the first month after Governor Mike DeWine issued a stay-at-home order, the Deaconess HealthCheck / Charitable Pharmacy doubled its number of new patients. The Becky & Ted Catino Choice Food Pantry jumped from 1,099 families served in February to more than 1,400 families in March. Calls to the Call Center for help skyrocketed to a 140 calls a day, many seeking rent and utility assistance. And, like Rhondisa, many were new neighbors to St. Vincent de Paul. One request came from a 53-year-old man who was working three part-time jobs and lost all of them. He lived in his apartment for seven years and now couldn’t make the rent. There was a couple who both lost jobs and were desperate to feed their family. There was a single mother of two boys whose selfowned business was crippled by the pandemic. “You guys helped my father before he passed, so you’ve been part of my community since I was a kid,” says Rhondisa. “So I knew where you were and could go there if I needed resources.” Just like for Rhondisa, St. Vincent de Paul is that beacon of hope neighbors need in their time of crisis. SVDPCINCINNATI.ORG


A Look Back

For more photos, go to SVDPcincinnati.org.

November: Thanksgiving Food Distribution With this year’s Thanksgiving Food Distribution taking place in the new Neyer Outreach Center, and a DJ spinning records, the annual event became more like a tailgate party for turkeys.

December: Angel Toy Santa’s elves brought us a bumper crop of toys this year, and the shopping space in the new Neyer Outreach Center made for a Merry Christmas.

January: Winter Coat Distribution Our third winter coat distribution took us into a new neighborhood this year, Lincoln Heights. When all was said and done, we gave away 2,376 coats to our neighbors.

HOW YOU CAN HELP RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC As we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and transition to a new normal, the ripple effect is going to create long and substantial waves. In the months ahead, we expect to serve many neighbors who were already struggling, as well as more who never needed our services before. We stand committed to continue to serve as a safety net for our neighbors in need, but we need your continued support. Here’s how you can help our neighbors: DONATE ON FACEBOOK While you’re flipping through Facebook, go to our donation page and help us reach our goal. CONNECT US TO BULK FOOD SOURCES Do you have access to large supplies of food that could be donated and help feed our neighbors now? Call us: 513-562-8841 FILL OUR AMAZON WISH LIST Our Amazon wish list has what our neighbors need and lets you shop from the safety and comfort of your home. Purchases are delivered to our outreach center. Find our wish list here: http://a.co/en3xuDy DONATE TO OUR THRIFT STORES Clean out your closets, basement, garage, kids’ rooms, attic, bedroom, living room, man cave, anywhere there are items you don’t need. Then drop off your items at one of our locations. DONATE YOUR CAR Tired of your old car? Can’t get that clunker to work? We would love to take your old wheels off your hands. Call us: 513-421-CARE FINANCIAL SUPPORT Your donation will help provide medications, food, and rent assistance for our neighbors impacted by coronavirus. Use the envelope in this newsletter or go to SVDPcincinnati.org/donate. 6



Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many events have been cancelled or moved to a later date. The below events are still scheduled, although they, too, may change. Please check SVDPcincinnati.org for the latest information.


What’s better than a yard sale? How about 40 yard sales all taking place at the same time. That’s essentially what is happening in Over-the-Rhine’s Ziegler Park. And the good news: We not only get a slice of the food vendors’ proceeds, but whatever yard sale items are left over at the end of the day are donated to our thrift stores.


As the summer heats up, we partner with Huntington Bank, WCPO and Braun Heating & Cooling to try to cool things off by handing out 900 or so free fans and air conditioners in May, June and July. It’s a 19-year tradition that we think is, well, cool. Watch our website for specific dates.


It’s back. Last year was the inaugural food drive with FC Cincinnati, and this year we will be outside of the gates of Nippert Stadium collecting food and monetary donations to stock the shelves of our food pantry over the summer and give hunger a kick in the grass.


Medicine and pharmaceutical care are so expensive that many of our neighbors go without. So we partner with Protective Life and 700 WLW and take to the links each summer in an effort to raise the resources needed to offset what we spend on purchasing medicine.


What’s the difference between a cabernet and a merlot? Or the difference between a Wild Turkey and a Buffalo Trace? Wonder no more. At our Wine and Bourbon Tasting, you can sample a wide variety of wines and bourbons. Think of it as an education in sophistication.


Some kids sleep on blankets or couch cushions or the floor. It’s a tragedy, which is why we created Day to Dream. Along with Morris Home Furniture and WCPO, we give away beds to 50 kids who don’t have one of their own. It’s a magical event. Please join us. Watch our website for the date SVDPCINCINNATI.ORG and details.


Non Profit Org US Postage Paid Cincinnati, OH Permit #1106 1125 Bank Street Cinti., OH 45214-2130

Call 513-421-CARE and give a vehicle of hope. Your donation could be tax deductible. We make it easy and handle everything from pick-up to paperwork.

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Give us your tired of household goods Your poor stuffed animals that your kids don’t play with anymore Your huddled masses of clothing you haven’t worn in ages. Our Thrift Stores are reopening and happy to accept all of the items you cleaned out of your closets, garages, attics, basements and kids’ rooms. Find a store or convenient drop box near you at SVDPcincinnati.org/Find_Us.

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