03 Dec

The first step in building a local advocacy coalition is for an individual St. Vincent de Paul conference to establish collaborative partnerships with social service agencies and governments in their community.  Many conferences have been collaborating with local partners.  Here are a few examples. 

We collaborate with the Salvation Army,” reported Susan Wiland, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Rockford Council.  “It's actually a partnership in some areas such as the St. Charles Borromeo Conference in Hampshire and the St. Patrick Conference in Dixon.  The organizations work together to maximize the benefits that are provided.  I am a Salvation Army Service Extension volunteer for Hampshire Township, and when I get a case I refer it to SVDP and vice versa.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Mary/Christ The Teacher Conference in DeKalb County has found it mutually beneficial to cooperate with the Family Service Agency (Community Action Program), Salvation Army, DeKalb Township, Catholic Charities and County Housing Authority in serving the various needs of low-income residents.

Erin Andrews, emergency assistance caseworker and volunteer coordinator with The Salvation Army in DeKalb noted, “We are currently working with St Vincent de Paul to help a homeless family secure housing.  We would not be able to assist this family to the extent they need on our own. Together we can make a larger impact in the community.  It is so important to come together with other community organizations especially in a time like this when there is so much need in DeKalb County.”

‚Ä®Jessica Brady, community programs director with the Family Service Agency in DeKalb also commented, “We want to help our community in the best ways we can and one of the ways is by working collaboratively with other organizations and agencies in DeKalb County.  St. Vincent de Paul Society is one of the partners we work closely with to better assist local residents.  We work together by identifying and referring individuals as well as families who can significantly benefit from participating in the Community Action Program, which we oversee for DeKalb County, or services provided by St. Vincent de Paul Society.  Through the provision of our comprehensive case management, our neighbors improve their knowledge of available resources and recognize skills to fortify success as well as self-sufficiency for their future.” 

Collaboration Combines Local Resources To Address Social Justice

Laura Ortiz, president of the St. Rita Conference in Rockford, has encouraged and promoted collaboration for many years.  “Our most recent collaboration is with the City of Rockford's Family Peace Center (FPC), which just opened in July 2020 to serve survivors of domestic violence and their families,” she explained.  “Both public and private local agencies are providing services under one roof.  The facility focuses on reducing the number of times survivors tell their story and the number of places survivors must go for help, as well as increases access to services and support for survivors and their 


As community partners, five Rockford SVDP conferences are providing assistance with financial and immediate needs for families referred by the Family Peace Center.  The five conferences are St. Rita,  Holy Family, St. James, St. Bridget and Cathedral of St. Peter.

During the planning stage for the Family Peace Center, Laura served on the team formulating the chaplaincy program for the FPC and specifically worked on the sub-committee that wrote the Chaplaincy Handbook.  With the approval of her pastor and the Diocese of Rockford, she currently serves as a chaplain at the FPC.  Laura also participates in quarterly meetings with other faith leaders sponsored by Rockford Mayor Thomas McNamara.

Established in 1964, the Rockford Rescue Mission is the region's primary provider of emergency shelter and assistance to the abused, homeless, near-homeless, addicted and working poor in the Rock River Valley.  Laura serves on the Mission's board, is chair of its personnel committee, and with another SVDP member teaches faith-based classes at the Rescue Mission's Women's Life Recovery Program.  (The classes were temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19.)  

Our Rockford area SVDP conferences regularly make referrals to the Rescue Mission,” said Laura.  “The agency provides meeting space if we are unable to meet with a FIN in their home.  We also are able to obtain vouchers for the Rescue Mission Thrift Store to assist FINs needing clothing, household items, furniture, etc.  The Rescue Mission provides approximately 400 community meals a day.  Our SVDP St. Rita Conference in Rockford has coordinated a few times with our parish to provide meals to the Rescue Mission as they meet the community need.”

Another initiative, the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program is coordinated by the One Body Collaboratives in Rockford.  “One Body” was built on the concept of collaboration and has a mission to unite the Christian churches to collaboratively work together.  This comprehensive organization is comprised of a referral network spanning 100+ churches representing more than 20 denominations, over 40 local ministries and 120 social service agencies. 

The goal of this program is to reduce poverty through a community-wide comprehensive approach.  The five Rockford area SVDP conferences are also partnering with One Body Collaboratives to provide “Getting Ahead in a Just-gettin'-by World” classes, which hopefully will begin early in 2021.

The St. Rita Rockford Conference also partners with the Rockford Reachout Jail Ministry and the Winnebago County Jail to provide weekly faith-based classes for inmates as well as a Mass celebrated once a month.  “We supply bibles, catechisms and other spiritual support reading materials.  (This initiative has been temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19).  We also receive requests from jail chaplains to assist inmates being released with temporary housing and other reentry needs,” said Laura.     

Additional examples of SVDP conferences in the Rockford Diocese reaching out to collaborate with local partners will be highlighted in future articles.

Article submitted by Bob Brown

VOP Rockford Diocese, Illinois

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