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Service to homeless, hungry and incarcerated are hallmarks of St. Vincent de Paul’s work

The following story appeared in the August 11 Idaho Catholic Register.

Ralph May, executive director of the Southwest Idaho Conference of St. Vincent de Paul presented a certificate from the SVdP national conference to Cathy Hagadone for her 25 years of service. (Courtesy photos/Genesis Pittman)

By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer

EAGLE – The Southwest Idaho Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul celebrated 25 years of service at this year’s Summerfest Gala at the Château des Fleurs in Eagle.

“Community is the tie that binds us here this evening,” said Ralph May, executive director for the conference. “As an organization, we rely on God’s providence, played out through an incredible community of volunteers who passionately contribute their time and talents and invest generously to build a better future for our struggling neighbors.”

About 180 attended the event, according to Mareesa Rule, development director. Cathy Hagadone, president of the council, received a certificate from the national SVdP council for her 25 years of service to the organization.

The evening concluded with live and silent auctions and a raffle for a 2023 Subaru Impreza and a Subaru Outback. The Impreza was won by a member of the Holy Apostles Conference of SVdP and the Subaru went to a member St. Maximilian Kolbe Re-Entry Conference, Rule said.

The Diocese of Boise, City of Boise, the Idaho Department of Correction and Idaho Power Company are among the many partners who expand and enhance the work of SVdP, May said. The council serves those in need from Mountain Home to beyond the western borders of Canyon County. “We are joined by members of our local conferences and other volunteers who dedicate time, resources, and open hearts to directly serve our neighbors in need. We are fortunate to do this work.”

About 1,600 volunteers helped SVdP’s many outreach programs during the past year. Some of those ministries include a re-entry program for those exiting incarceration, food pantries, thrift stores and home visits to help people avoid homelessness. “We are overwhelmingly a volunteer organization,” May said.

Last year, SVdP distributed more than 750 tons of food. “The number of people seeking food assistance has grown alarmingly this year, with our five locations serving at record, or near record levels,” May said. Outside of the Idaho Food Bank, which is a primarily a wholesale-type entity distributing food to local food pantries, St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho is the largest direct, free-food distribution network in Idaho. “This is possible only through the dedication of hundreds of volunteers, generous community partners and strong individual financial support and food donations,” May said.

Because of the home visit program, SVdP has helped thousands of families and individuals avoid homelessness. Home-visit volunteers provide financial aid, primarily for rent and utilities. They also bring thrift store vouchers, referrals for further assistance programs and encouragement, May said.

SVdP operates thrift stores throughout the valley and is well-known for its Thanksgiving Box and Christmas Toy Store drives.

Re-entry services to help former inmates adjust to life outside prison walls are rapidly growing at SVdP, May said. “The men and women exiting incarceration struggle mightily to reintegrate successfully into the community outside the walls of prison.” The program is a key factor in reducing the likelihood that the men and women helped will return to prison.

The re-entry help offered by SVdP begins with pre-release classes at two prisons in the South Boise prison complex, with 80 to 100 men and women in attendance monthly. “These classes cover St. Vincent de Paul and other community services that are available to them upon release, employment and career assistance available before and after release, general information for successful community reintegration, and a large dose of hope to diminish, at least a bit, the anxiety most feel in that moment,” he said.

There are also follow-up meetings given to those who attend the classes with the support of Idaho Department of Correction staff, he said. Before an inmate’s release, IDOC case managers coordinate with SVdP to schedule a volunteer or employee who will meet with the person coming out of prison.

Some of the services offered returning citizens include access to clothing through thrift stores, food from SVdP food pantries, assistance to acquire a cell phone, bus passes and employment consultation and referrals. They are also provided transportation that )

allows them to register for food stamps and attend meetings with their parole officer. In most instances, the released men and women are provided a temporary home during their transition back into society.

About 180 attended the 25th anniversary of the Southwest Idaho council with a

“Roaring ‘20’s” theme at the Summerfest Gala at Château des Fleurs in Eagle. (Courtesy photos/Genesis Pittman)

St. Vincent de Paul of Southwest Idaho’s re-entry program is now a Federal Apprenticeship Group Sponsor, the only nonprofit in Idaho with this designation, May said. The apprenticeship program offers the chance for a returning citizen to complete an apprenticeship with a private employer. By registering through SVdP, the individual’s progress is tracked and documented through its completion. “This program will benefit not only returning citizens and their families, but also the greater community and our state,” May said.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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