New Round of ESL, Basic Computer Courses Start July 1; GED Also Available

DES MOINES – Central Iowans in need of English as a Second Language instruction and basic computer training can find help through two free courses starting July 1 at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

In addition, the society’s literacy center is offering assistance to people who are seeking a general equivalency diploma, said its director, Felipe Gallardo.

“As with a lot of things, often the hardest part is getting started. Our literacy center offers free assistance to people who want or need to get started on their GED. We’re also a resource for people who would benefit from more one-on-one assistance as they work on their GED,” Gallardo said.

He continued, “There are many people in this area who need help with their English skills but, obviously, it can be very difficult to get the message to them. In the past, we’ve found that employers will encourage some workers to take classes to help them grow and become more successful employees. I’d continue to encourage anyone who knows a person who could use instruction in these areas to let them know and also contact us.”

The ESL course will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. The computer course will run from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Mondays. Both courses will run 10 weeks at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 1426 Sixth Ave. Registration for the ESL classes ends June 27.

Instructor Josh Winicki said the ESL course will provide the entry-level instruction. Students in the computer course will first learn fundamental operating skills before moving forward with instruction on sending email, conducting online job searches and applying for positions, and operating Word, Excel and PowerPoint, he said.

“Beginning to speak and understand English and developing even the most basic computer skills can help people clear two very high hurdles between them and getting ahead in today’s economy,” Winicki said. “These courses are great first steps to start a new life. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers them at no cost because we recognize what a difference maker they are in people’s lives.”

For additional information about the ESL and basic computer courses, contact Winicki at 282-8328, ext. 18. For information about the GED offerings, contact Gallardo at 282-8328, ext. 17.

A Special Gift from a Very Special Young Lady

Lyric Baker, a Des Moines girl who recently celebrated her sixth birthday, visited the St. Vicent de Paul Society of Des Moines today to donate all of the money she received for her birthday to buy food for those in need.

Lyric, accompanied by her mother, stepfather and grandmother, presented social services director Fern Klemm with $217 in cash that she received for her birthday from friends and family. She had told friends that she did not want other gifts because she had already decided to make her donation to the Society.

The event was recorded by KCCI-TV photojournalist Glen Biermann and was set to air on the station’s evening newscasts. After she made her donation, Lyric toured the Society’s store, social services center, literacy center, intake department and warehouse. She met employees and volunteer, who each thanked her for her kind act.

“Lyric is obviously a very special girl who has a tremendous heart,” said Eric Woolson, the Des Moines Council’s executive director. “At such a young age, she is an example for all of us that the spirit of charity knows no bounds. Everyone here at St. Vincent de Paul was touched by her generosity and the love and concern she has for others.”

St. Vincent de Paul of Des Moines to Celebrate Dio de la Ninos During Week of April 29

Literacy center director Felipe Gallardo and store manager Jessica Daab have teamed to come up with a special way to promote the Society’s thrift store and celebrate an event adapted from a Mexican holiday.

“In Mexico, Dio de la Ninos — the Day of the Children — is celebrated on April 30. The occasion has been adapted in the United states to underscore the importance of young people in our communities and celebrate and lift up all children in the United States in the same way that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day honor parents,” Gallardo said. “We’ll be celebrating Dio de la Ninos the entire week of April 29 with free cookies and lemonade and free books for each children who visits the store.”

The store is also advertising a special discount on La Reina, one of Des Moines’ Spanish-speaking radio stations. Gallardo has recorded an ad promoting the Society’s Dio de la Ninos event.

“Anyone who mentions they heard about our Dio de la Ninos activities on La Reina will receive a 10-percent discount on all purchases during the week of April 29,” he added.

St. Ambrose Cathedral Knights of Columbus Host Second Annual Cookie Walk on May 19

The St. Ambrose Cathedral Knights of Columbus are hosting their second annual Cookie Walk on May 19 to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Des Moines to fund the purchase of materials to build shoe shelves in the Society’s thrift store. The members of St. Ambrose Knights of Columbus Council No. 15336 will also assemble the shelves.

“We appreciate the generosity of the St. Ambrose Knights of Columbus so much,” said Society President Jim Wachuta. “We’re grateful for everything all the Knights of Columbus are doing for the Society, including our own employee, Patrick Corrigan.”

The Cookie Walk, which will collect goodwill donations, will follow the 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Masses in the parish center next door to the cathedral.

Food Pantry Opens on First, Third Evenings of Month

Responding to the needs of the community, the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry will be open on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, Social Services Director Fern Klemm announced today.

“The food pantry helps so many people each week, but we found that many others just aren’t able to get here during the daytime because they are working,” she said. “That’s when we recognized the need to open the food pantry from 5:00 8:00 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.”

Klemm said response was strong on April 2, the first evening that the pantry was open.

“The food pantry is open to anyone who needs the help. We certainly expect to see more people as word spreads about the new hours,” she said.

The food pantry is located at 1426 Second Ave.

Community Housing Initiatives, Inc. Hosts Second Annual NeighborWorks Week

NeighborWorks WeekDES MOINES, IA — June 13, 2011 — Community Housing Initiatives, Inc., (CHI) hosted its second annual NeighborWorks Week event on June 10 as an opportunity to create clean, safe neighborhoods and to celebrate the local community. Following this year’s theme, “Working for Strong Communities,” more than 40 volunteers helped beautify St. Vincent de Paul, a local nonprofit located along 6th Avenue on Des Moines’ north side. Volunteers from CHI, Mercy Medical Center, The 6th Avenue Corridor and St. Vincent de Paul participated in the all-day event that included landscaping, barb wire fence removal and replacing a retaining wall on the property.

“Thanks to the efforts of the many volunteers, NeighborWorks Week was a great success,” said Doug LaBounty, president of CHI. “St. Vincent de Paul is a vital part of The 6th Avenue Corridor, and we are glad to assist with the completion of several beautification projects.”

CHI’s participation in NeighborWorks Week was just one of more than 200 events that were held across the country from June 4 to 11 during NeighborWorks America’s 28th annual celebration. The week-long event is held the first week of June each year and is an opportunity for thousands of volunteers to help make their communities healthy, sustainable places to live, work and play.

The beautification project was CHI’s second annual NeighborWorks Week event. In 2010, more than 50 volunteers helped clean up Time Check Park, an area in Cedar Rapids that was devastated by floodwaters in 2008.

“NeighborWorks Week is an outstanding opportunity for volunteers to work together to clean up our local communities,” LaBounty said. “Everyone who was involved should feel proud of what was accomplished. It is just a small success of the many positive things happening along 6th Avenue.”

“NeighborWorks Week is an outstanding opportunity for volunteers to work together to clean up our local communities,” LaBounty said. “Everyone who was involved should feel proud of what was accomplished. It is just a small success of the many positive things happening along 6th Avenue.”

Community Housing Initiatives, Inc. (CHI) was created in 1993 by a Northwest Iowa Community Action Agency, Upper Des Moines Opportunity. Over the past decade, CHI has established itself as one of the most successful developers and managers of affordable housing in Iowa. CHI has constructed or rehabilitated more than 1,000 affordable housing units and currently has 70 additional units under construction. Visit to learn more about CHI’s efforts to provide high-quality affordable housing options across the state of Iowa.

NeighborWorks America creates opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by providing access to homeownership and to safe and affordable rental housing. In the last five years, NeighborWorks organizations have generated $20 billion in reinvestment in these communities. NeighborWorks America is the nation’s leading trainer of community development and affordable housing professionals. Visit for more information.

What a difference a year makes…

St. Vincent de Paul StoreOn December 26, 2009, in Des Moines, IA, a winter snow storm put the roof of St. Vincent de Paul’s retail store to the test and won. The snow load caved in the roof, creating a devastating blow to staff, volunteers and most importantly those that depend on St. Vincent de Paul for support and fulfillment of their needs. The community was in shock. Carmen Winters a social worker with Mid-Iowa Family Therapy Clinics, shops regularly for her clients. “It’s a lot more than clothes…they have great resources.” More importantly, though, Carmen observes, “St. Vincent de Paul serves the entire community with a giving spirit, and they are culturally sensitive to the needs of the community.”

The Board of Directors met with insurance agents, contractors and community members to sort out and vision the possibilities for St. Vincent de Paul’s future.

A capital campaign was initiated to get the word out about the funding needs of not just reconstruction but re-visioning. The St. Vincent de Paul board relied on community input, surveys and their mission to make the decision to incorporate an Education Center in the new building structure. “If you’re digitally ‘illiterate,’ I cannot imagine how you’d cope with employment issues.” says Janet Witte. She has been there and knows the value of web based opportunities.

Helping others help themselves; this sign hangs over the entry way to the St. Vincent de Paul Store and is the mantra of our service and expectations.