Many Southtowners were very impressed by the work of Terry McDonald who told Southtowne (years ago during very lean times) that St. Vincent de Paul realized that hard times dictated that people could not donate like they once had and thus his organization was going to find ways of providing income for themselves. He did that by establishing innovative recycling programs that could provide income. They were the first in the area that could profitably recycle mattresses, and they sold antiques and vintage furniture mined from English junkyards. Since then he has continued to innovate, providing our area with an inspiring example of innovation to help serve the needy.
Steve Hutchinson developed the initial connection with St. Vinnie’s with Rebecca Larson, Development Director, while Steve was parish council president at St. Jude’s Catholic Church. That was the beginning of the program to provide a backpack containing necessary school supplies for school children. Ben Mondragon has taken over leadership of the backpack program. The fundraising is capped off by a popular evening get-together where Southtowne Rotarians and their families get together to pack the packs.
Each year, under the leadership of Ben Mondragon, Southtowne collects thousands of new socks and underwear, which are distributed to the very poor and homeless. In 2012, Ben Mondragon accepted the Boxer award from Terry McDonald, the very successful Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County. Many of us have been very inspired by Terry’s description of his many innovative programs, which he has described during several Southtowne presentations. The Boxer award isn’t (just) a pun on shorts. It alludes to a holiday in Great Britain called Boxing Day, which celebrates the gifting to others less fortunate. Terry said that Southtowne has collected a mountain of socks and underwear and displayed a socks and underwear representation mirroring the Coburg Hills as seen from his office. “For many people living on the streets or in poverty, clean underwear and dry socks are a luxury. Distributing these items to people in need is a small way to give them some dignity back.”
Partnership in Helping Kids and Their Families
Camille Ronzio further developed this relationship by tapping in to St. Vincent’s programs for helping families pay for utilities and bus transportation on an emergency basis as well as helping families receive emergency food. The program directs families to St. Vincent’s when possible and fills in when these programs are not available.
Goals for 2019-’20
- Provide dinner once a month for Annex residents
- Provide occasional crafts activities for the children
- Include SEHS Interact students in these projects
Contact Ben Mondragon for more information on how to get involved.