Who We Are:
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul
is one of the longest-serving charitable organizations in the world. Our Society was founded in 1833 in France by six Catholic college students, including Frederic Ozanam. Frederic and his friends wanted to help the poor reeling from the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. Our founders also wanted to improve the lives of their peers by urging them to perform works of charity rather than simply talk about what should be done to help people in need. Our founders took as their patron St. Vincent de Paul, a French priest from the late 16th and early 17th centuries who alerted the people of his day to many of society's ills. The first members of our Society visited poor people in their homes, as we still do today, and helped them whenever possible by providing food and other necessities. Our young founders also offered food for the spirit through their many acts of kindness and friendship. The work of our Society spread rapidly and came to the United States by 1845 with the founding of what is now the Council of the United States in St. Louis, Mo. By 1848 the Society was serving in Milwaukee, and we began our work here in Dane County in 1925.
Our global Society is made up of lay Catholic men and women who are committed to live and grow in their Christian faith through prayer and personal involvement in charitable works. The Society has spread to 150 nations, with more than 700,000 members worldwide. Our world-wide mission is to help our neighbors in need; we do so in countless ways, primarily through direct, person-to-person assistance. We are organized into parish- and community-based member groups called “conferences” and also work through special projects such as food pantries and housing programs. Our members, called Vincentians, continually strive to promote the dignity of the people we serve while we also help alleviate their distress and work to correct conditions that cause these problems.
Operating here in Dane County, the District Council of Madison, Inc., Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic lay organization in which members join together in friendship to grow spiritually by providing person-to-person services to our neighbors in need. Sales of donated goods at seven Dane County thrift stores help fund the local charitable work of the Society. At our Center for Vincentian Charity in Madison, the Society operates a large customer-choice food pantry and a charitable pharmacy; distributes vouchers for bedding, furniture and clothing; and supplies other forms of emergency aid to local people in need. The Society offers programs that provide housing for men, women and children in Madison. These and all other services provided by the Society are offered without regard to the religious affiliation, race, ethnicity or gender of those we assist. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization.
Services Provided: Helping Our Neighbors In Need
- We donate items out of our stores directly to low-income people. Last year, through a voucher system, we gave away nearly $500,000 worth of clothing, furniture, bedding and household items.
- We operate the largest food pantry in Dane County. Last year we helped over 64,000 people -- including 28,000+ children -- with food value at $1,500,000.
- In Dane County, we are the principal source for furniture given directly to people transitioning from homelessness. Last year, we gave away more than $232,000 in furniture and bedding.
- We operate a charitable pharmacy to help people who lack medication coverage and are unable to afford prescription medicines to treat their chronic or acute conditions. We provided $358,000+ in pharmaceutical assistance last year.
- It’s typical that about 60 men, women and children reside in housing the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers in Madison. We operate Port St. Vincent de Paul (a home for men) and St Elizabeth Ann Seton House (transitional housing for women and children).
- We run seven Dane County thrift stores – three in Madison and one each in Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Verona and Waunakee -- where people of all means can find bargains on clothing, furniture and household items and more.
- Funds raised from our stores’ sales of donated goods underwrite much to the charitable aid we offer. Generous financial donors also help significantly in meeting the many needs we address.