Making a Global Difference – The Society of St. Vincent DePaul

They say that being “in the moment” is important because you never know what opportunity might pop up. That is exactly what happened when I answered an email sent to our city by Steve Havemann from the Society of St. Vincent DePaul. Several years ago I spoke to a local chamber and met a volunteer of the organization so I was somewhat aware of what they do…but wanted more.

Executive Director Steve Havemann on the Mission: Employable Podcast

Join the conversation as we highlight St. Vincent de Paul, an organization that has programs to help underserved populations build job skills and find pathways to employment. Executive Director Steve Havemann talks about how St. Vincent de Paul of Des Moines works with the community to help people overcome barriers and connect with new job opportunities.

St. Vincent De Paul In The Community

As we continue to provide food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, and education to over 33,000 Iowans during this global pandemic, other businesses in our community are noticing our efforts. Check out this St. Vincent De Paul Blog just posted by Broken Arrow T-Shirt Printing and Embroidery. The blog lists three ways people visiting their website can help support St. Vincent De Paul during these difficult times.


During this time of closures and social distancing we have established a protocol allowing us to continue providing pantry essentials to those in need.

Both pantries are open for business by appointment only.   Pantry appointments and pickup times are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

As needs run high, supplies run low.   We would like to ask that as a friend of SVdP that you participate in our #foodpantrychallenge.   Just think, if you donate $10 then either tag on social media or challenge 3 friends to do the same, we will generate enough funds to not only keep the pantries open during this dangerous time, but also continue with our mission to provide healthy food choices to our clients.

Donations can be made on our website at: by going to the donation tab.

If you know someone in need, appointments can be scheduled by calling the numbers below:

1426 6th Avenue: 515-282-8327 Ext. 14

520 SW Army Post Road: 515-282-8328 Ext. 30

It is because of friends like you that we have been able to continue serving clients during this stressful time, and we are grateful for your continued support.

Can we count on you?

SVdP Reflection – July 2017

If we look at the definition of summer, one of its meanings would describe this season as “a time of fulfillment”. It is a time to witness and enjoy the presence of god through a gentle breeze, a turbulent storm, or as the temperature has testified, some very warm days.

You know, summer seemed younger when we were young. Summers were more fun then, maybe because life was more fun. There was swimming, riding our bikes all day long, hanging out with friends, and having to come home only to eat, sleep, or maybe when it rained. It seems that the older we become, we have to work at catching summer lest it slip through our hands like a hard ball grounder through our glove in the field of our soul. Adult summers are less fun than kid summers. Yet each year summer does come back to life, and life does come back to summer. Summer allows us time. The days are longer, the temperatures are warmer, and the earth’s treasures are nurtured from their spring birth. Summer can break the bonds of logic and allow us to enter into the beauty of god’s creation. It can be a time to let loose of the inhibitions that the other three seasons seem to protect. These short three months invites us to play and relax.

to become mature and developing disciples of Jesus’ demand we take time to rest and enjoy the fruits of god’s creation. Most of our days are filled with busy work and activity. We meet ourselves coming and going in every direction. Some of that is placed upon us by life and circumstances beyond our control, some we place on ourselves to keep our esteems highly recognized. Playfulness, watching the sun rise and set, and savoring the moments in between may be less stressful, but we say it won’t pay the bills, keep the home and property in order, or secure our futures. Workaholism and activity addictions leave us with the temptation that we have plateaued if we do and get “more” done. You know, the Christian life blesses human labor and endorses its dignity, but work that is balanced with leisure and recreation. Without that balance we are not much different than robots who go wherever led. Our cultural value of busyness proves that out.

One final thought. Some years ago our grandmother was visited by one of her 14 grandsons. I asked her if she could, what she would do different in her 99 years of life. Grandma said, “John, I would use my good dishes more and wear my best clothes not just on Sunday.” We, as faithful Vincentians, need to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In doing this, our ministry of outreach and service will be beneficial to all we meet and give honor and glory to God.

Helping juvenile offenders stay out of court system

Three Des Moines area residents explain why they applaud the expantion of a mediation program that helps first-time, juvenile offenders understand the impact of their actions directly from their victims. Kathy Bolten/The Register

St. Vincent de Paul Board Selects Andrew Gross as Tom Varilek Education Center Director

DES MOINES – Andrew Gross, a former Catholic elementary school principal who was most recently an achievement coach and recruiter with the WTA-Connect program at Des Moines Area Community College, was named director of the Tom Varilek Education Center today.

“Andrew brings a unique and extraordinary skill set to the Des Moines Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” said board president Jim Wachuta. “With a focus and commitment to walk with the center’s students on their journey out of poverty, we recognized that Andrew’s ability in the classroom combined with his strong administrative abilities and practical knowledge and extensive knowledge in the workforce arena made him the perfect candidate for this critical leadership position.”

The Tom Varilek Education Center provides classes in basic computers skills classes (English and Spanish), Hi-SET, financial literacy and English as a Second Language. All classes and services are free and open to the public.

Gross, who earned his bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Iowa, was an upper-elementary classroom teacher in urban and rural schools from 1975 to 1983. From 1983 to 1988, he was the director of religious education at St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Des Moines and earned his master’s degree in education from Drake University in 1985. He served as the principal of Holy Family School from 1988 to 1996, earning his specialist degree in education in 1994 at Drake University.

Gross was superintendent of the Interstate Community School District in Truro and Sentral Community School District in Fenton between 1996 and 2000. From 2000 to 2010, he was a drug prevention/school safety lead coordinator, career advisor and teacher with the Des Moines Public Schools system. He was employed by DMACC from 2010 through the present.

“DMACC was one of 10 sites across the country to be selected for a research study on the effects of wrap-around services to long-term employment and self-sufficiency,” Gross said. “The study, entitled WTA-Connect, gave me a firsthand opportunity in workforce skills assessment and development. We’re certainly not going to duplicate services or reinvent the wheel, but those are areas where the Tom Varilek Education Center can strengthen its special niche in the community to help people out of poverty and into better lives.”

Volunteers Sought for Colorado Flooding Disaster Relief Efforts

The Des Moines Council of St. Vincent de Paul Society is seeking disaster volunteers from the local conferences to work as caseworkers for disaster victims of the Colorado floods in the Boulder area. SVdP is currently on “standby” to perform this mission.

Barbara Slaven, National VP for the Midwest Region (from Omaha) received the call from Ken Merlin, National Disaster Committee Representative, Midwest Region. She said, “According to Mr. Merlin, ‘Volunteers will be trained in casework management by a SVdP team from the South Central Region (SCR) who served during Hurricane Sandy (NJ/NY), the OKC tornadoes, and a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas – prior to assigning the Omaha volunteers to a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DAC). We are responding to a special request from Catholic Charities USA to provide the casework because of the excellent work provided by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in recent disasters.’”

The DAC is a secure site located outside the disaster zone.

Volunteers are encouraged to carpool to and from the Denver area, and will be assigned to the same work site, if possible. Commercial air is authorized.

Anyone in the Des Moines area wishing to volunteer may contact Fern Klemm, Des Moines Council Social Services Director, at (515) 282-8328 or with your name, phone, email, availability after Oct. 1 , and any experience/classes in disaster work. Minimum availability for this assignment is one week.

Friends of the Poor Walk Planning Under Way

The planning committee for this year’s Friends of the Poor Walk in Des Moines met on Saturday to begin planning for the event to be held at Pete Crivaro Park from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept 29.
Anyone interested in additional information or in serving of this year’s organizing committee may contact Jessica Daab at (515) 282-8328 or Eric Woolson at Anyone who would like to sign up as a walker should check out the national society’s web page for the event and click “Walkers.”
“The Friends of the Poor Walk is a great opportunity to help those in need and, to be honest, it is a wonderful chance to get to know other people committed to the cause of the poor in our community. Any money that is raised goes directly to the Des Moines Council and our conferences to help people in need right here in the metro area,” said Maureen “Moe” Kauzlarich, this year’s event chair. “Walkers have the option of one mile or two, which makes it a wonderful event for young and old. Anyone who isn’t up for the walk but would like to show their support on the day of the event is invited to join us at the park’s shelter house for music, lunch and friendship.”

Volunteers, Employees Honored with Service Pins

DES MOINES — The efforts of a number of long-time volunteers and employees of the Des Moines Council were recognized this morning during the society’s quarterly meeting at the Basilica of St. John.

“I want to share a few thoughts about the value of volunteers summed up in three quotes. The first is, ‘Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.’ The second is, ‘Don’t ever question the value of volunteers. Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.’ And, finally, ‘Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless,'” said executive director Eric Woolson. “Our volunteers truly are priceless. They not only have heart, but faith, energy, good humor and so many other wonderful assets. We could not do what we do at the thrift store without them.”

Council President Jim Wachuta presented service pins to volunteers and employees who were present. Volunteer recipients included:

Five-year pins: Al Minear, Shauna Bury and Harriette Hawks.

Ten-year pins: Regina Pirtle and Larry Schmitz.

15-year pins: Mary Jo Rageller, Kathy Van Sloun and Della Kinkel.

30 year pins: Marguerite Wines, Betty Wines, Cathy Schuster, Dick Schuster and Clara Sertich.

“When it comes to employees … this advice was offered to business leaders, ‘Encourage your people to be committed to a project rather than just involved in it.’ I can tell you without a doubt, every one of our employees is committed to our cause and doing the best job they can do. And, that’s what has made the Society’s thrift store, social services and literacy center work as well as they do,” Woolson said.

Services pins were presented to the following employees:

Five years: Jerry LaRue, Jr.

10 years: Fidel Romero, Mary Beck, Jaime Jasso, Jessica Daab and John DeMaranville

30 years: Rita Vera.