St. Vincent de Paul of Phoenix

The Mission:

“The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international non-profit organization dedicated to serving the poor and providing others with the opportunity to serve. The Phoenix Diocesan Council has been assisting central and northern Arizona families since 1946. Programs include services for the homeless, medical and dental care for the working poor, charity dining rooms, thrift stores, a transitional housing shelter and general assistance for individuals in need.”

“These people have nowhere else to go, this isn’t the last resort for them, it is the only resort.” As I sat in the kitchen with my mother that morning, she put so much in perspective with that simple statement. We often take for granted  that our lives give us countless options. Our days consist of choosing item a from item b and these people you meet at St. Vincent de Paul would die for those everyday options, for the chance to choose.
Great Depression Food Line

It all began with a debate: how are you helping the poor in Paris? In 1833, the society of St. Vincent de Paul began when a law student, Frédéric Ozanam, and a few of his peers wanted to prove they do their part to help the less fortunate in their community. He took on the challenge almost immediately and within the first few weeks, he and his 6 peers established the first “Conference of Charity” focused primarily on visiting poor families in their home and providing them with the necessary aid.

After some further work, Ozanam placed the charity under the name of St. Vincent de Paul who spend his life serving and living for the poor.Within the next few years, the original group went from 7 to 600 people, reaching out to more than 15 cities and towns in France and gaining over 2,000 volunteers.

In 1845, we saw the charity cross the ocean and  pick up in St. Louis, Missouri. One hundred years later Tommy Johnstone, a man from New York, quite familiar with the charity, brought it to the valley.

One of my favorite parts of St. Vincent de Paul is how many volunteer opportunities they offer. According to the volunteer page, “there are literally hundreds of ways that your gift of time could be put to use in helping those in need from volunteering in our medical or dental clinic to serving food in one of our 5 dining rooms, helping out in one of our 8 thrift stores, reading to our children during one of our family evening meal services, administrative type support and the list goes on!”

They also make it easy to sign up and get involved right away. Most volunteers, looking for hands on work turn to these two areas to volunteer, take a look at wat you could potentially be doing for the charity.

The Dining Hall:

  • setting up the dining hall for meals
  • serving meals
  • clean up
The Thrift Store:
  • Clothing, furniture and food are sold at low prices
  • proceeds go towards helping the program and the families
  • hanging and sorting clothing
  • arranging merchandise
  • waiting on customers
Your work with St. Vincent de Paul is a big help and the numbers show it!

IA-Dubuque - St Vincent De Paul Store

If you are looking to donate some items to help the cause click the link to see what they need!

Check back next week to see what charity I feature next!


Special Olympics Arizona

The Mission:

“Our goal at Special Olympics Arizona is to empower the over 180,000 Arizonans with intellectual disabilities to be healthy, productive, and respected members of society through our year-round sports training, competitions, and support programs.”

Special Olympics - Trials

Upon arrival to my first volunteering experience with the Special Olympics charities, I was beyond anxious. I was definitely excited to meet all the different people and be apart of the movement, but I was nervous. I was 16 years old and I knew in a few short hours I would be taking on a great feat.

“Your job is to not only guide the athletes, but also keep the peace,” one of the mothers chaperoning the field trip explained. “You need to be prepared for anything, whether that means a tantrum or even an injury, stay calm and it will help the athletes do the same.” I immediately thought I was not ready for such a responsibility, but once I saw some of the athletes laughing and hugging the volunteers across the way, I knew this was where I wanted to be.

The Oath:

 “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

This international, year-round program began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver put on the first summer games in Chicago, Illinois. Yet her work began in the early 1960s when Shriver began a camp for disabled children; she always believed children with handicaps were a lot better in physical activity than experts were willing to admit or understand.

In December of 1968, the Special Olympics officially established itself as a non-profit organization with support from other accredited groups like The National Association for Retarded Citizens, the Council for Exceptional Children and the American Association on Mental Deficiency . From then on, millions of children have been able to benefit and participate in games and events all over the world.

This work is incredibly unique from so many other charities. It puts you in a spot to not only help these children grow and enjoy life, but you learn so much as well. You do not only appreciate your life and the opportunities you’ve been given, but you see beauty in every special child you work with. Their enthusiasm and eagerness to participate ignites a fire in you and constantly reminds you why this is an organization you want to be apart of.

So what does a volunteer do at a Special Olympics event? The organization has two levels of volunteering depending what type of involvement you are looking for.

Special Olympics Swimming (032)

Class A Volunteering offers opportunities to:

  • have daily interaction with the athletes
  •  help with event and athlete paperwork
  •  hands out awards after events
  • times the runners and/or assists the athletes to each event
  • stands as a coach, chaperone, area director, or game management team member

Class B Volunteering offers opportunities to:

  • assist in event planning
  • participate in the SOAZ event
  • these volunteers are not necessarily in direct contact with the athletes
  • working in the official offices, fundraising event volunteers or day of event volunteers

For more information you can contact the volunteer coordinator, Mary Chistensen.

There are so many opportunities to get involved and offer your time and support for this amazing cause! Tune in next week to see what charity I feature next!

Arizona’s André House of Hospitality

I was hungry, and you gave me food.

I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.

I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.

I was naked, and you gave me clothing.

I was in prison, and you visited me.

Mt. 25:35-36

My first visit to André House was also my first time volunteering at a community service organization. I was in fifth grade, and my volleyball team decided a good “team bonding” activity would be to volunteer somewhere in the community. I knew nothing about community service or André House, so listening to my mom try to explain what a food bank was and why these people had to come everyday was an eye-opening experience.

I remember trying to understand why these families needed André House, and more specifically why they needed my help. I walked up to the front doors with my teammates and our parents, and next to me was a line of at least a hundred families waiting in the cold for their first meal. That is when I understood why I was there.

Fitz & Baxter

After much planning and years of dreaming, two Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame made their idea a reality on October 1, 1984. Their goal was to  “respond to the basic needs of the poor and homeless people, while encouraging others to do the same.” They rented a space in a run-down part of Phoenix, looked toward their church, The Holy Cross Congregation, and the ideals set by The Catholic Worker Movement, and opened their doors on November 29th of the same year.The founders, John “Fitz” Fitzgerald and Michael J. Baxter encouraged those in the Phoenix area to begin volunteering and building their community.

Although André House began with a primary focus on providing meals to those in need, they quickly expanded. They opened a house in 1987 that offered housing to homeless women, food box distribution in times of emergency, free clothing and education and recreational programs for children. They continued to expand, and after significant fundraising, they opened their hospitality center in June of 1996, and have been helping the community that much more ever since.

Throughout my time working with André House, I have been fortunate enough to volunteer in a number of areas. I began working on the food line, preparing meals and setting up for dinner. I got to interact directly with the families and really see my work pay off. The families are so appreciative and most of the time, they are eager to know more about you and where you come from. In addition, I got to work with some of André House’s employees, who are so appreciative of volunteers’ time and efforts.

On another trip, I got to work in the day care area with all of the kids. During or after dinner, the kids would come to the day care center to color, read books or just “be around the big kids.” It provides a break for the parents and, in a way, for the kids as well.

I’ve also spent time working in the warehouse and thrift shop. I would organize and sort clothes, get the shop ready for the people coming in and at times act as a consultant and friendly face for the shoppers.

All three areas brought me something different. I loved my hands on work with the families, yet working in the warehouse was rewarding as well. I knew my efforts were going to bring a lot of the joy to the families. Whether they fell in love with a dress or saw some new shoes for their son, I could work to bring them a joy they do not often feel.

The André  House of Hospitality offers so many services and opportunities to get involved! André House is always in need of more volunteers and donations so do not be afraid to call and arrange a tour of a volunteering opportunity. This organization is close to my heart, because not only do they strive to provide a sense of stability for hundreds of families everyday, but they are where I found my start in community service. Their passion and commitment inspired me to help in my community and offer my time.

I included some more information on André House on my resources page along with some other great charities and organizations that work everyday to put a stop to homelessness.