“Serving Boone, DeKalb, Kane, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside, and Winnebago Counties in Illinois ”
OUR MISSION The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a network of friends inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.
The Youth Step Up in DeKalb Four high school girls, tired of being cooped up during the pandemic, decided to take a walk - a long 26.2 mile walk to be exact. And this wasn't just any old walk, it was a walk to raise money for St. Vincent de Paul, St. Mary's Conference in DeKalb. All of the girls graduated from St. Mary's Catholic School and are now juniors in high school. They chose St. Vincent de Paul as the beneficiary of the funds raised because they knew that those funds would directly help others.
The girls used a GPS app to map their marathon route. The began their walk at Afton Forest Preserve at 5:38am and completed the walk at 7:50pm. They enjoyed their time together playing music, and, of course, a stop for ice cream. They were able to raise $561 for St. Mary's Conference. We are truly blessed with their selflessness.
Your Servant Leader, Susan
Article for SVDP NCR VOP September 2020 Newsletter By Bob Brown, Rockford Council Voice of the Poor Coordinator
A Good Job Is Essential To Overcoming Systemic Poverty
The #1 need across our Rockford Diocese is to create more full-time jobs that pay a living wage with good benefits. Such a source of steady income is so essential to generate the minimum level of income that is required to pay a family's modest living expenses.
To address this issue, our SVDP Council is participating in a statewide advocacy campaign to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act during the fall session of the Illinois General Assembly. The proposed Bill will provide funding to establish 20 centers across the state designed to train disadvantaged individuals for jobs in the clean energy (solar and wind) industry, as well as to create minority-owned, energy-related businesses in low-income areas. An existing fee on coal-fired generators of electricity will fund this project. For more information, contact: ilcleanjobs.org and peopleplanetfirst.org
SVDP conferences in northern Illinois also refer our neighbors-in-need to a network of Illinois WorkNet Centers for employment assistance with offices serving the Rockford Diocese in Woodstock, Batavia, DeKalb, Ottawa, Rock Island and Rockford. Many of the centers work in tandem with a nearby community college to provide financial aid, computer literacy and ESL classes, career exploration and training, and job search, interviewing and placement resources. The centers also offer employers free advertising of open positions as well as assistance in identifying and matching qualified applicants.
Building Collaborative Coalitions To Foster Grassroots Advocacy
The first step in building a local advocacy coalition is for an individual conference to establish collaborative partnerships with social service agencies and governments in their community. Many conferences have been collaborating with local partners. Here are a few examples.
“We collaborate with the Salvation Army,” reported Susan Wiland, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Rockford Council. “It's actually a partnership in some areas such as the St. Charles Borromeo Conference in Hampshire and the St. Patrick Conference in Dixon. The organizations work together to maximize the benefits that are provided. I am a Salvation Army Service Extension volunteer for Hampshire Township, and when I get a case I refer it to SVDP and vice versa.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Mary/Christ The Teacher Conference in DeKalb County has found it mutually beneficial to cooperate with the Family Service Agency (Community Action Program), Salvation Army, DeKalb Township, Catholic Charities and County Housing Authority in serving the various needs of low-income residents.
Erin Andrews, emergency assistance caseworker and volunteer coordinator with The Salvation Army in DeKalb noted, “We are currently working with St Vincent de Paul to help a homeless family secure housing. We would not be able to assist this family to the extent they need on our own. Together we can make a larger impact in the community. It is so important to come together with other community organizations especially in a time like this when there is so much need in DeKalb County.”
Jessica Brady, community programs director with the Family Service Agency in DeKalb also commented, “We want to help our community in the best ways we can and one of the ways is by working collaboratively with other organizations and agencies in DeKalb County. St. Vincent de Paul Society is one of the partners we work closely with to better assist local residents. We work together by identifying and referring individuals as well as families who can significantly benefit from participating in the Community Action Program, which we oversee for DeKalb County, or services provided by St. Vincent de Paul Society. Through the provision of our comprehensive case management, our neighbors improve their knowledge of available resources and recognize skills to fortify success as well as self-sufficiency for their future.”
Collaboration Combines Local Resources To Address Social Justice
Laura Ortiz, president of the St. Rita Conference in Rockford, has encouraged and promoted collaboration for many years. “Our most recent collaboration is with the City of Rockford's Family Peace Center (FPC), which just opened in July 2020 to serve survivors of domestic violence and their families,” she explained. “Both public and private local agencies are providing services under one roof. The facility focuses on reducing the number of times survivors tell their story and the number of places survivors must go for help, as well as increases access to services and support for survivors and their children.”
As community partners, five Rockford SVDP conferences are providing assistance with financial and immediate needs for families referred by the Family Peace Center. The five conferences are St. Rita, Holy Family, St. James, St. Bridget and Cathedral of St. Peter.
During the planning stage for the Family Peace Center, Laura served on the team formulating the chaplaincy program for the FPC and specifically worked on the sub-committee that wrote the Chaplaincy Handbook. With the approval of her pastor and the Diocese of Rockford, she currently serves as a chaplain at the FPC. Laura also participates in quarterly meetings with other faith leaders sponsored by Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara.
Established in 1964, the Rockford Rescue Mission is the region's primary provider of emergency shelter and assistance to the abused, homeless, near-homeless, addicted and working poor in the Rock River Valley. Laura serves on the Mission's board, is chair of its personnel committee, and with another SVDP member teaches faith-based classes at the Rescue Mission's Women's Life Recovery Program. (The classes were temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19.)
“Our Rockford area SVDP conferences regularly make referrals to the Rescue Mission,” said Laura. “The agency provides meeting space if we are unable to meet with a FIN in their home. We also are able to obtain vouchers for the Rescue Mission Thrift Store to assist FINs needing clothing, household items, furniture, etc. The Rescue Mission provides approximately 400 community meals a day. Our SVDP St. Rita Conference in Rockford has coordinated a few times with our parish to provide meals to the Rescue Mission as they meet the community need.” Another initiative, the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program is coordinated by the One Body Collaboratives in Rockford. “One Body” was built on the concept of collaboration and has a mission to unite the Christian churches to collaboratively work together. This comprehensive organization is comprised of a referral network spanning 100+ churches representing more than 20 denominations, over 40 local ministries and 120 social service agencies.
The goal of this program is to reduce poverty through a community-wide comprehensive approach. The five Rockford area SVDP conferences are also partnering with One Body Collaboratives to provide “Getting Ahead in a Just-gettin'-by World” classes, which hopefully will begin early in 2021.
The St. Rita Rockford Conference also partners with the Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry and the Winnebago County Jail to provide weekly faith-based classes for inmates as well as a Mass celebrated once a month. “We supply bibles, catechisms and other spiritual support reading materials. (This initiative has been temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19). We also receive requests from jail chaplains to assist inmates being released with temporary housing and other reentry needs,” said Laura.
Additional examples of SVDP conferences in the Rockford Diocese reaching out to collaborate with local partners will be highlighted in future articles.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Rockford Council is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. Donations to the Council are deductible. The Council's tax identification number is 06-1640220.