Diocesan News

Collaboration Begins Between St. Vincent de Paul Society, CSS

LINCOLN (SNR) - On Friday, March 12, the Lincoln Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVdP) and Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Diocese of Lincoln took the first step in forging a new collaboration. Father Christopher Kubat, CSS director, and Dr. Mike Carlson, president of the Lincoln Council, signed a lease agreement that will enable the St. Vincent de Paul Society to establish a new outreach center on the CSS campus at 23rd and O streets in downtown Lincoln.

Lincoln’s SVdP Council has been in need of a new location for some time now. Their former property at 1911 R St. was sold to Assurity Life Insurance Company last year.

SVdP volunteers have been able to continue to assist “the poorest of the poor,” because the lay organization focuses on in-home visits. Pairs of volunteers respond to calls placed on the SVdP help line, visiting needy clientele in their homes to assess needs and deliver whatever financial and practical helps are required.

The new SVdP outreach center on O Street will enable the Lincoln Council to continue to serve its clientele with the benefit of close access to various CSS services.

“CSS are the professionals; we are the volunteers… We complement each other,” said Dr. Carlson.

For example, when SVdP volunteers realize that a client needs something more extensive than a sack of groceries or money to pay a utility bill, they will refer the client to CSS for family counseling, immigration assistance, or one of the many other services provided by CSS.

Another major collaboration between the two organizations will be the thrift store. Since selling its facility on R Street, the Lincoln SVdP council is no longer operating its own thrift store and warehouse.

“A lot of people worked really hard to keep it going, and they should be commended for it,” Dr. Carlson stated. “But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have two Catholic thrift stores competing with each other [in one city].”

Now, any clothing, furniture and household goods donated to SVdP will be processed through the CSS-run St. Louise Gift & Thrift, right next door. SVdP will have access to the complete St. Louise store inventory when they need items to help their clientele.

Both organizations will continue to host household goods and furniture drives to stock St. Louise Gift & Thrift and other CSS stores, and both will continue to arrange to pick up furniture and appliance donations from private homes or businesses.

SVdP volunteers will also have access to the St. Francis Food Pantry at CSS.

Each organization will maintain separate funding to support its efforts. The Lincoln Council of SVdP is actually organized with parish-based conferences. Each parish conference raises its own funds and has complete authority in determining where and how the money is used. Volunteers working at the outreach center will continue to take calls on the help line and notify parish conferences so that a team can be dispatched to the caller. Teams will also operate out of the centralized outreach center.

It will be about six more weeks before the building immediately east of St. Louise Gift & Thrift is renovated for the new SVdP outreach center. The building will house a reception area, an office for the yet-to-be-hired executive director, a private consultation area, a restroom, etc.

The Lincoln Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Social Services have been serving Lincoln-area individuals and families since 1987. Approximately 95% of the donations made to SVdP go to help the poor; the rest covers the organization’s modest overhead.

This very personal, face-to-face lay ministry is a way to bring the love of Christ to those who need it most.

“We try to not only see the face of Jesus in them, but also to let them see the face of Jesus in us,” said Dr. Carlson.

For more information about the Lincoln Council of St. Vincent de Paul, to donate or to volunteer, please contact your SVdP parish conference representatives or call (402) 438-3135. For assistance from the society, dial the Help Line number: (402) 435-7968.

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