The nation’s largest Society of St. Vincent de Paul is about to get bigger.
Eleven people whose vision and generosity spurred the raising of $15 million of a $16 million capital campaign grabbed a hard hat and golden shovel for a ceremonial groundbreaking at St. Vincent de Paul’s main Phoenix campus May 12. They put the first shovel to dirt for what will become a two-story, 40,000-square-foot Family Resource Center.
That family includes individual St. Vincent de Paul guests who often view staff and volunteers as family while they’re transitioning out of crisis mode. Some of them will ultimately live in the Family Resource Center. Floor plans call for Ozanam Manor, the transitional shelter for adults ages 50 and older plus adults of any age with a disability, to expand and relocate to St. Vincent de Paul’s local headquarters.
Eric Heizelman, a resident of Ozanam Manor, knows how handy it will be to have the shelter across the street from St. Vincent de Paul’s main point of outreach. He commuted three-to-five miles from the shelter to the dental clinic and now to the “Getting Ahead” program over the last nine months.
Heizelman lost his self-sufficiency after a long hospital stay for a work-related injury left him behind on rent and then homeless. St. Vincent de Paul staff got him back on his feet physically and spiritually. Beyond that, they restored his faith in human kindness, he said.
“More will be helped like they’ve done for me,” Heizelman told the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking plus 700 others livestreaming the event through Facebook.
More than 100 invited guests sat and stood at cocktail tables under a canopy for the occasion. Shannon Clancy, who served as master of ceremonies, accurately described the scene as overflowing with people, love, joy and gratitude. She called the people gathered proof what’s possible when people come together to lift each other up.
“We needed to find a community with hearts full of love and all of you were there,” said Clancy, her voice shaking in humility. Clancy serves as chief philanthropy officer.
Aside from the nearly fully funded campaign, it was the vision of Mike and Cindy Watts that started a $5 million endowment to ensure the Family Resource Center and other St. Vincent de Paul programs remain sustainable.
“We can’t thank you enough for this transformational gift that you’re giving us today,” Steve Zabilski, St. Vincent de Paul’s executive director, said as he went through a litany of donor names, bios and their practical — not just financial — role in making the groundbreaking day possible.
A semi-truck with a photo collage of how St. Vincent de Paul houses, heals, clothes and feeds the community served as a backdrop for the stage and groundbreaking. Faux carpet provided a dust-free event, except for the ceremonial turn of the dirt in a controlled bed of loose land.
“This is a dirt lot today, but in a year’s time, this is going to be transformed into a special place that our guests call home. … I hope you’re all so proud of it. We’re so proud of you,” Zabilski said. “Bless you all for imitating God and bless you all for continuing the legacy of St. Vincent de Paul.”
Part of the capital campaign also calls for widening Watkins Road and playing musical chairs within St. Vincent de Paul’s 30-year-old building. The Going Home Ministry, which helps guests travel to where they have a verified system of support with family or friends, will move to the Family Resource Center. The medical clinic will occupy its space where it can see more patients and allow the dental clinic to occupy the entire top floor. The moves will fill ongoing requests for professionals and those learning the trade to volunteer at both clinics.
St. Vincent de Paul
Dining room, shelter, ministry and home-based services to feed, clothe, house and heal those in need in the community.