Society of St. Vincent de Paul helps those most in need

| February 20, 2019 | 0 Comments
From left, Wayne Bugg and Francesca DiPiazza, a member of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, talk about inventory at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Minneapolis. He is the associate director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Twin Cities and manager of the thrift store. She is the custodian of books.

From left, Wayne Bugg and Francesca DiPiazza, a member of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, talk about inventory at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Minneapolis. He is the associate director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Twin Cities and manager of the thrift store. She is the custodian of books. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Ed Koerner is grateful the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation will provide a $50,000 grant this year to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-Twin Cities.

Marking the first time the appeal will support the society, the grant will let the nonprofit do more to help more people in need. But the foundation’s efforts also will help get the word out about the Catholic, charitable organization and the good that it does across the seven-county metro area, said Koerner, executive director of the society, which operates on an annual budget of nearly $1 million.

“The value for us in CSAF is not only the money we’re getting but the marketing they are doing to get our name out there,” Koerner said.

The funds will help, as well, he said. For example, SVDP might add a fourth “pop-up shop” each month with free food and clothing to the monthly shops it already holds at Holy Rosary in south Minneapolis, St. Bernard in St. Paul and at varying sites around the Twin Cities, Koerner said.

Money from the annual appeal also will help pay transportation costs, he said. The society regularly picks up food at major outlets to help meet the needs of 25 food shelves and other charitable food programs. More than 1,000 tons of food each year move through the society’s warehouse in south Minneapolis.

In addition, SVDP runs a thrift store in St. Paul and a thrift store in Minneapolis, which are filled with clothing, furniture, kitchen ware, books, toys and other items.

The society supports the archdiocese’s mission parish in San Felix, Venezuela, occasionally shipping containers with medical supplies, food, clothing and items for churches and sacramental needs. The society also supported the creation of a SVDP conference at the Venezuelan parish, Jesucristo Resucitado.

A current project is collecting baby formula for nutritional needs at the mission parish. Catholic schools are being encouraged to gather supplies and donate to the effort, which could culminate in a container being shipped to Venezuela in late spring or early summer, Koerner said.

Twelve parishes in the Twin Cities run their own SVDP conferences, raising money to help people purchase food, pay rent or utility bills, and meet other emergency needs. Volunteers go two-by-two to the homes of people seeking help, Koerner said, treating each person with dignity and respect.

Conferences meet the needs of the neighborhoods they serve, with some concentrating on immigrant populations, said Pat Kaiser, president of the board of SVDP-Twin Cities and a parishioner of Incarnation in south Minneapolis.

SVDP members come together in their spiritual journeys, as well, said Koerner, a member of Nativity of Mary in Bloomington. Founded in France in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, the international society is grounded in Catholic and Gospel values. Conferences frequently hold sessions centered on Scripture, prayer and reflection, Koerner said.

“We take our marching orders from Jesus,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know that. They know our charitable works, but really, we’re offering a path to spiritual growth.”

The society helps people pull their lives together. That’s true for Wayne Bugg, who found a job at SVDP in Minneapolis 22 years ago after growing up in a life of poverty and crime in Harvey, Illinois, which is a south suburb of Chicago, and in Gary, Indiana.

“Everybody I knew was either selling crack cocaine or using it,” Bugg said of growing up. “My parents were using it. My step-dad was a carpenter, and he spent all the money on drugs.”

Escaping that life with a kindly aunt, Bugg eventually dropped his own involvement in drugs and crime after moving to the Twin Cities, finding a job at the SVDP thrift store in south Minneapolis and experiencing a turnaround in the wake of a cousin’s violent death. He moved up from odd jobs such as shoveling the parking lot and selling Christmas trees to become the store manager and SVDP-Twin Cities associate director.

“God knew where I needed to be,” said Bugg, a member of a nondenominational church in Minneapolis.

At the same time, encouraged by SVDP volunteer and former president, the late Darryl Bach, Bugg earned his high school equivalency diploma, and a bachelor’s degree in business management at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

Bugg gives a lot of credit to the people at SVDP.

“They kind of like raised me, you know? I came here pretty raw, and they accompanied me. I was like a ball player, and they saw potential,” he said.

Bugg told his story two years ago at a SVDP meeting in Chicago, as one way to let people in the society know their work is not in vain. And he is excited about the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation this year making SVDP part of its annual appeal. Bugg also appears in this year’s CSAF video seeking donations.

SVDP-Twin Cities serves more than 42,000 people a year, including outreach by its parish conferences. That number should grow with CSAF’s help, Bugg said.

“I believe we can help more people” with the $50,000 grant, he said. “I’m so thrilled that more people will get a second chance, or a third chance, or whatever they’re working on. …

“There will be more ‘Waynes.’”

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Category: Catholic Services Appeal, Featured