Summer 2021 Newsletter

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ST. VINCENT’S WAY SUMMER 2021

Neyer Outreach Center Walk-In Services Resume Neighbors Welcomed Back with Friendly Faces

Society of St. Vincent de Paul—Cincinnati District Council


DEAR FRIENDS, Have you ever taken a leap off a 10foot high diving board? If it’s been a few years since you’ve experienced this summertime thrill– let me take a moment to refresh your memory of the high dive. After taking a courageous leap from the edge of the board, the diver experiences a momentary sensation of weightlessness. Quickly, however, that weightless feeling is replaced with heavy anticipation of the inevitable collision with the water’s surface. After breaking the surface, the diver is accelerated deep into the diving well. The depth of the pool mercifully keeps the diver from scraping the bottom, but it doesn’t take long for one to become acutely aware that there’s now several feet of water separating them from the air they need to fill their lungs. While returning to the surface is oftentimes easy, there may be a moment during that ascent when the diver experiences a flicker of doubt. Perhaps the diver has opened their eyes to see a great distance between themselves and the surface of the

water. Maybe they sunk farther than they’d anticipated. Possibly, as it happens from time to time, the diver hit the water at a tricky angle and has felt the wind knocked out of them. No matter the case, the diver needs to get to that breath of air. But, even as the diver pulls and kicks with earnest vigor, sometimes, one can’t help but wonder—Will I ever make it back to the top? For many of the neighbors we serve, the past 15 months have been like a series of unexpected leaps off a 10foot high dive. Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple kicks to get back to the surface. Other times, however, the journey may seem impossibly far. This past year, especially these summer months, many neighbors have reached out to us when they are in deep water and need significant assistance in order to stabilize their lives. St. Vincent de Paul has been empowered with resources to extend more assistance to each neighbor than ever before. It is thanks to the generosity of our parish communities, government resources, the fortification of the Hubert Family Conference Assistance Fund, and the support of our Vincentians, volunteers, and staff that we have been able to meet the

greater needs of our neighbors. Thank you. In the pages of this newsletter, you will read about two of our neighbors who received assistance this summer in the form of a new air conditioner. It’s a simple luxury so many of us take for granted. These two neighbors tell us that it’s made all the difference during these sweltering summer days. You will also get a peek at scenes, like the one on the cover, from inside the Neyer Outreach Center – where our neighbors are steadily coming back in after walk-in services reopened in July. While the uncertainty of the past year or so has not faded just yet, it’s refreshing to see our services being offered through person-to-person contact once more. As we offer our neighbors a buoy to safety, let us not forget the promise we hear in Isaiah 43:2: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” John Sawyer, Chairperson St. Vincent de Paul Board of Directors

Vincentian Spotlight: Mary Ann Robbe How long have you been a Vincentian? Three years

providing rent and utilities assistance, working at Our Lady of Lourdes food pantry.

Conference: Our Lady of Lourdes

Most memorable Home Visit: A woman with five kids had moved out of her apartment and into a house, with absolutely no furniture, because of a bug infestation. My fellow Vincentian and I had to climb a very steep driveway to get to the front door of the house. There was an old car parked in the driveway and to my surprise, three very young children were sitting in the backseat of the car. I said “Hi” to them and quickly realized that they were sitting there, because there was nowhere in the house to sit. We spoke with the mom and listened to her needs. All she wanted, she said, was furniture for her new home. We helped her get furniture and got her connected to our food pantry. She was thrilled and very grateful.

Your role in the Society: Returning neighbors’ phone calls, home visits,

Biggest lesson you’ve learned as a Vincentian? I was very surprised at the level of poverty just a few miles from my home. I learned how grateful some people are at the very things that most of us take for granted. It is a wonderful feeling to actually see the people you are helping, especially the kids. What has made you stick with the ministry? I feel like I am blessed to have an opportunity to help those less fortunate. It is a joyous way of performing Christian acts of mercy. 2

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Fan, AC Distribution Has Record Year Sweltering temperatures send ice cream scoops sliding off their cones. High winds carry away patio furniture and overturn potted plants. Torrential downpours gush into basements and flood garages. It’s no secret that Cincinnati summers can be brutal at times. But for our neighbors without air conditioning, the heat and humidity that arrive each summer can make life pretty uncomfortable—if not dangerous. For two of our neighbors, David and John, facing another summer without the relief of air conditioning was a daunting prospect. Both disabled veterans, the two friends

David recalls. “…We were reduced to not being able to do much more than sit quietly all day trying to endure the torment.” This spring, David and John were watching a local news program when they heard a story about St. Vincent de Paul distributing air conditioners to neighbors over the age of 65, and to those with medical needs. Remembering living through the oppressive heat in 2020, they quickly completed the online application for a new air conditioning unit. David said it was a relief when they received the call that their request had been approved.

their individual health issues.”

The Fan & A/C Distribution, presented by Braun Heating and Air Conditioning, served more neighbors like David and

John this summer than ever before. Over 890 fans and 633 air conditioning units were provided, at no cost, to neighbors; an increase of 87% in fans distributed and 58% more air conditioners, over last year. The distribution, which began the first week of May, wrapped up at the end of July at the Neyer Outreach Center. Outreach Center Program Director, Erin Nowak, says making changes in the distribution process for both fans and air conditioners has helped make things simpler for neighbors and helped her team expand its capacity to provide this type of assistance.

have faced the ups and downs of life together as roommates over the past several years. In the spring of 2020, just as the weather began to warm up, the pair hit a new hurdle as they realized their air conditioner was no longer working. Neither could afford the necessary repairs. Of course, the spring of 2020 brought about new, unexpected challenges for all. The CDC began rolling out new regulations as the COVID-19 virus began to spread, and everyone was encouraged to stay home as much as possible. For those like David and John, who both cope with chronic medical issues, every interaction with people outside of their home became a risk they’d have to weigh. “Although we had some fans, they could not break through the humidity,”

“We’ve made some adjustments over the last few years to make our Fan & A/C Distribution easier for our neighbors and I think we’re seeing the result of that,” Nowak says. “The most important of these changes is using an online request form for ACs – our neighbors don’t have to be in front of us to request assistance, which makes it a lot more accessible.” “It is comforting to know that organizations like St. Vincent de Paul are there to help when times get dark, and there seems to be no one else around or options available to provide aid,” David says. “Like a beacon from the sky, they have made two veterans comfortable and able to get through the heat and humidity… so they can continue to dream of how to make the best of the rest of their lives despite

While Cincinnati’s hot and muggy air is bound to linger throughout August and into the fall – Nowak says she’s thankful to everyone in the community who has empowered her team to respond to the needs of our neighbors. “We’ve been able to assist a record number of neighbors this summer because our community understands just how important this effort is and has responded to the need with wonderful generosity.” SVDPCINCINNATI.ORG

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WORKING BETTER, TOGETHER Thrift Stores Tackle Workforce Challenges

SVDP’s Sunnie Johnson-Lain and Jim Wenstrup (far left) and Julie McFarland and Brian Combs (far right) with graduates of Cohort One.

It’s a hot, sunny July afternoon. The thermometer reads 90 degrees, but for Robert, standing on the blacktop beside the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Western Hills, it easily feels like 100. Robert’s job is to attend to the steady stream of cars arriving to the thrift store’s donation zone. He helps donors unload their items, and carefully places the donations into steel carts that will later be rolled inside. Robert thanks each person for their contribution and swiftly distributes their receipts.

Most days, Robert admits, it’s not an easy job. He’s on his feet throughout his shift (rain or shine) and although he enjoys interacting with co-workers and customers, in Robert’s own words: “Stuff ain’t light.” Recruiting motivated employees like Robert – and retaining them – is the goal of St. Vincent de Paul’s new workforce development initiative, called Working Better Together. “It’s been an ongoing challenge,” St. Vincent de Paul Director of Services, 4

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Sunnie Johnson-Lain explains. “The abundance of jobs currently available in the retail and service industries has made attracting and retaining committed staff even more difficult.” Johnson-Lain is among a diverse group of leaders across St. Vincent de Paul who have spent the past five months developing the Working Better Together model. Each has drawn from their own area of expertise -- retail, community outreach, and human resources to name a few– to consider the obstacles that may keep new employees from succeeding and growing, and what support could bolster longevity within the organization. Another major goal of the program is to promote fellowship within the thrift store teams. It’s no secret that a sense of camaraderie among co-workers can not only make the workday more enjoyable, but also helps operations run more smoothly. For this reason, leaders chose to

implement Working Better Together training in a small group, or cohort, format. COHORT ONE In early June, a group of eight, new full-time hires at St. Vincent de Paul’s Western Hills Thrift Store became “Cohort One” of Working Better Together. For the first week of their employment, Cohort One split their shifts between two hours of Working Better Together training and six hours in their respective workstations. Their Working Better Together sessions included presentations on employee expectations, effective communication techniques, financial literacy and budgeting, and the history and mission of St. Vincent de Paul. By the end of the week, six of Cohort One’s new hires successfully completed the curriculum. On the final day, each was recognized with a certificate of completion—and of course, cake! Robert, who now works as a donation attendant, is one of those six in


Working Better Together’s Cohort One. While his day-to-day work isn’t always easy, he says being a part of Working Better Together has been an impactful part of his experience at St. Vincent de Paul. The aspect he enjoyed the most was the presentation on the services SVDP provides. In addition to outreach services for neighbors, SVDP also provides modest support with basic necessities, such as clothing vouchers or bus tickets, to employees working to overcome barriers or other emergencies in their lives. “It gives you a sense of security,” Robert says. “I know I am not by myself in this.” “It’s passed the Newberry test,” Darrell, one of the Working Better Together program participants now working as a floor associate, says. He explains he can’t help but compare each of his jobs with his favorite former workplace – J.J. Newberry’s in Downtown Cincinnati. The “Newberry test,” Darrell explains, “It’s just a warm, comfortable feeling.” Sarah, another Working Better Together participant now serving as

a cashier, says “coming in knowing people” has been a big benefit of being in Cohort One. “Not knowing anyone and feeling awkward -that’s what can make you feel uncomfortable at work.” On the one month anniversary of their employment, five members of Cohort One reunited in the

customers; others spoke about overcoming obstacles and the small victories they’ve earned. “All participants reported that the program gave them a better understanding of expectations for them and real pride in being part of the mission of SVDP,” Johnson-Lain says. Moving forward, Cohort One will continue to meet once-a-month, with the hope that the group will eventually lead the check-ins on their own. While Cohort One was the pilot for Working Better Together, the program -- or some form of it—could eventually be offered to all new thrift store employees. For now, leaders are planning to expand the training to one new cohort per month at stores most in need of new staff. The first expansion will be to the Mason Thrift Store, where 10 members of “Cohort Two” are set to start in early August.

classroom in Western Hills to discuss their experiences so far. Some shared their challenges interacting with co-workers or

“In an ideal world, we would hold fewer of these sessions over time,” Johnson-Lain says. “Our new hires will love working for SVDP so much; we will have fewer opportunities to hire.”

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A LOOK BACK

SCENES FROM THE NEYER OUTREACH CENTER After 15 months, the Neyer Outreach Center opened its doors for walk-in services on July 8th. Services are available to neighbors who do not live in one of our Conference areas. It is also home to the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy. An updated list of services available at the Neyer Outreach Center is available online at SVDPcincinnati.org/NOCservices.

We Need You! Volunteer at the Neyer Outreach Center Since reopening, volunteer opportunities at the Neyer Outreach Center have doubled! Help us make a difference in the lives of our neighbors by signing up for a volunteer shift. Whether it’s for just a day or if you’re seeking regular involvement, we have plenty of opportunities available for both individuals and groups. Some of our current openings include: • Choice Food Pantry Volunteer • Choice Food Pantry Processing Center Volunteer • Welcome Room Advocate • Volunteer Gardener • Help Line Advocate Interested in finding out more? Visit our website at SVDPcincinnati.org/volunteer or contact our Volunteer Manager, Alec Jewell at volunteers@SVDPcincinnati.org or 513-345-4982. 6

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CALENDAR

A LOOK AHEAD

AUGUST 28 DAY TO DREAM No one should have to sleep on the floor. Sadly, it’s a problem faced by too many across the Tri-State, especially children. At our annual Day to Dream event, St. Vincent de Paul, Morris Furniture and WCPO 9 will surprise 50 kids with a bed of their own. Their reactions are truly priceless, and so is the gift of a good night’s sleep. The Day to Dream bed distribution will be followed by a telethon broadcast on WCPO 9. More details coming soon!

SEPTEMBER 9 BLESSED FREDERIC OZANAM FEAST DAY Recognized as a prime founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frederic is described in the SVDP National Council’s Manual as “a rare individual who exhibits both intellectual genius and extraordinary holiness.” Under Blessed Frederic’s direction, the first members of the Society brought not only bread but friendship to those they served. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Paris in 1997.

a celebration OF SERVICE

SEPTEMBER 16 CELEBRATION OF SERVICE St. Vincent de Paul had originally planned to honor Upward Spiral Campaign Co-Chairs Becky Catino and Bart Kohler in May 2020. While this event could not go on in its traditional form last spring, we are looking forward to gathering in-person to celebrate Becky and Bart’s impact at an outdoor venue: the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This event generates critical resources to help provide rent and utilities assistance to our neighbors – at a time when this type of assistance is more essential than ever.

SEPTEMBER 24 GCL FOOTBALL FOOD DRIVE Whether you bleed purple or are a member of the long blue line, everyone can get behind having a little fun for a good cause. Football fans are invited to bring non-perishable food items to select Friday night games, with the proceeds benefitting St. Vincent de Paul’s network of food pantries. As details are being finalized, please keep an eye on our website in the coming weeks for more information.

SEPTEMBER 27 ST. VINCENT DE PAUL FEAST DAY Known as the “Apostle of Charity” and “Father of the Poor,” St. Vincent de Paul is the namesake and patron saint of our Society. Consider celebrating with us through intentional prayer or by performing a random act of kindness for someone else.

OCTOBER TRUNK OR TREAT It’s become a tradition to invite our neighbors from the West End to enjoy some family-friendly fun in the parking lot of our Outreach Center each Halloween. We strive to create a safe space for the kids to play games, get their faces painted, and collect plenty-o-candy to celebrate the spooky season.

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

When you donate a vehicle, you’re helping feed a hungry family, giving a child a bed of their own, helping a mother pay her utility bill. Proceeds from all donated cars, trucks, motorcycles or RVs support our neighbors in need. Call 513-421-CARE to schedule a pickup. Follow SVDPcincinnati on

a celebration OF SERVICE

Honoring Becky Catino and Bart Kohler Thursday, September 16, 6 p.m. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden For tickets and more information, visit SVDPcincinnati.org/COS


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