Living out a culture of philanthropy through St. Vincent de Paul

What started with a chance encounter turned into decades of dedication and service for Richard and Linda Warren. The couple moved from the Boston area to Phoenix in the mid-nineties, and that's when they met Dan O'Meara and first learned about St. Vincent de Paul.

"You know in a very casual, conversational kind of way, Dan revealed his lifetime commitment here," Linda remembers, "and how he was one of the original founders of the Phoenix chapter in his 20s, which just blew me away. And as a result, we developed a friendship and this dialogue continued. Through Dan we were introduced not only to St. Vincent de Paul, but to all of its wonders."

From the first time the Warrens toured the Watkins campus, they were in awe of the organization, and they became deeply involved in its service and fellowship.

Shortly after, a new CEO assumed leadership of SVdP, Steve Zabilski. Steve saw the potential in what SVdP could do and worked closely with Richard, who had run a communications agency back in Boston, to help explore that potential.

Richard and Steve helped the organization realize that asking for financial help was presenting an opportunity to all people throughout the Valley to give to a meaningful organization that matched their values. With an increased focus on a culture of philanthropy, the Warrens saw SVdP grow from a modest organization into what it is today.

Like many in the Valley the Warrens give to other organizations as well. But at SVdP they feel a spiritual attachment, Richard notes — "a call of fellowship to serve those of us in need."

Why? The humility, authenticity, and sincerity of the Society.

"St. Vincent de Paul is exceptional. No one is grandstanding," Richard adds. "The Society is not beating its chest. It's just doing the work because it's necessary and because it cares."

It's something the Warrens see with everyone involved with SVdP. From staff members to volunteers to donors, all the way to its leaders, Steve Zabilski and Associate CEO Shannon Clancy.

"We know where the donations go," Linda says. "We know because we see it. There are no fancy buildings, no drop-dead gorgeous offices...we see that our funds go directly to helping those individuals and families in the greatest need."

For the Warrens, SVdP is about more than simply giving someone a food box when they're hungry. St. Vincent de Paul's service is based on developing a comprehensive understanding of each individual's needs followed by personalized service and care that is created to help that individual survive and thrive with dignity.

"At St. Vincent de Paul, caseworkers talk with their guests genuinely and open about their concerns, their needs, their unique situations. They ask guests about their life experiences, where they've been, where they are now, and where they want to go. And most importantly, how SVdP can help them get there," Richard adds. "It's definitely not a one-size fits all."

This holistic approach to service really creates a sense of family amongst staff, supporters, and guests.

"One of the first recollections I have about St. Vincent de Paul was a rather intimate event for the naming of the downtown O'Meara center. Very small," Linda recalls. "And they had a kind of impromptu stage and people spoke. But as soon as I walked in, I felt this overwhelming sense of warmth, of fellowship. It just embraced me. I just felt the caring heart without one word being spoken."

But as soon as I walked in, I felt this overwhelming sense of warmth, of fellowship. It just embraced me. I just felt the caring heart without one word being spoken.
-Linda Warren

Even though it's on a much larger scale now, it's still the same feeling the Warrens get every November when they attend SVdP's annual breakfast event at the Phoenician.

"It's different from any of the other galas we've ever been to," Richard says. "It's just different. It's like a big celebration, it's a big family. You sense the true meaning of being human."

St. Vincent de Paul gathering are like family members coming back together. The Warrens remember mornings at the Phoenician with their close friends around the breakfast table, listening to testimonies and people empowered to share their stories with all who are there.

As the years have gone by, the Warrens have seen the need in the community continue to grow and have seen SVdP step up when and where it could to meet that need at every opportunity. But they also note that the organization's mission has never changed. It had remained a close-knit family committed to serving others.

"Is that not our destiny?" Linda asks. "Is that not our purpose? To give people hope in whichever way we can through St. Vincent de Paul."
-Linda Warren

"Is that not our destiny?" Linda asks. "Is that not our purpose? To give people hope in whichever way we can through St. Vincent de Paul."

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