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St. Vincent de Paul CdA celebrates 75th year

Barbara Smalley educates community on work of agency.

By Kaye Hult

The 75th Anniversary celebration for St Vincent de Paul North Idaho (SVDP) in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, Sept. 9, which was sold out, has been postponed. 

It was planned as an opportunity to learn of the agency's history, reflect on the years and invite the audience to examine how they have helped or can help the community.

Development director Barbara Smalley attributes the response to the role it has played serving the community over those years.

It will be an opportunity to reflect on the years and invite the audience to examine how they have helped or can help the community.

Development director Barbara Smalley attributes that to the major role it has played serving the community over those years.

Since coming to SVDP 10 years ago, she has been telling the story of St. Vincent de Paul, which is known for its thrift stores in Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Osburn in the Silver Valley, but is much more.

St. Vincent de Paul in North Idaho is also a social service agency, offering housing, shelters and services for seniors and families with children. Most services are offered at the H.E.L.P. Center, 201 E. Harrison Ave. in Coeur d'Alene.

"Beyond the homeless, we work with all those who struggle, such as the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population," she said, noting that includes veterans and people with disabilities.

SVDP also offers parenting classes through ICARE Parenting Support, which also offers child sexual abuse prevention workshops.

In 1946, Coeur d'Alene was a small lumber and mining community.  Members of the St. Thomas parish saw neighbors in need and started a clothes closet. That grew into St. Vincent de Paul, which is now the largest organization in North Idaho serving low-income and homeless people.

As they seek to provide support and compassion along with services to help people be self-sufficient, their vision is to offer "a hand up, not a hand out," as they "clothe the naked, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless"

They also help people enrich and rebuild their lives with dignity, said Barb. When she encounters people with a judgmental view of SVDP clients, she urges them to realize clients did not have a goal of being homeless or low income.

Barb said housing is increasingly hard to locate. SVDP helps people find jobs more readily.

Its men's and women's shelters offer information and referral to services, job counseling and life skill classes. 

Clients are expected to volunteer at the thrift store and help with chores at the shelters. They are to save half their income so they will have money for their own residence when they leave. 

They are expected to find employment within 30 days of their maximum 90 days of residence, when they are to move from the shelter into a stable situation.

For those seeking work, St Vincent de Paul provides career counseling and a voucher program for job search.  Job seekers gain skills and confidence for job interviews.

SVDP operates more than 300 units of permanent senior and low-income housing in the five counties of North Idaho.

Its Trinity Group Homes are semi-independent homes in Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls for those with mental health issues who need life skills training. Their goal is for residents to graduate into community living.

Angel Arms/Healing Hearts Housing provide housing for chronically homeless individuals and families.  The head of household must have a documented disability. The goal is for residents to be trained, gain self-sufficiency and move into independent living within two years.

SVDP also offers rent and utility assistance for people in their own homes, facing eviction or utility cut-off.  Individuals may apply for this help. If Social Security requires it, SVDP helps with representative payee services.

For people with limited access to food, SVDP offers meals at Father Bill's Kitchen, a community dining hall that serves a free meal Monday to Friday evenings.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program provides children in day care with food.

Barb said a lack of transportation makes the many area food banks difficult for many to access, except people who live nearby.

"Father Bill's Kitchen is centrally located and on the bus line, as is the Coeur d'Alene SVDP campus," Barb said. "Throughout the pandemic, we have continued all our services, including the dining hall."

The services are possible because local nonprofits work together, said Barb.

Barb grew up on a large farm in Minnesota in a loving family with 13 children. They had to help each other meet their needs and had to care about each others' feelings. 

After education in Minnesota and work in Tennessee and Portland, Ore., she settled in Coeur d'Alene, where she married, had four children and has lived for more than 30 years.

She spent 10 years working in the travel industry and 10 in sales at the Coeur d'Alene Press.

After her husband's death, Barb wanted to give back. So she decided to work with SVDP.

She likes helping people and celebrating their success stories. She appreciates the generosity of those who help.

Barb advises people to consider what they want to have, what they want to do, what they want to be and what they want to give.

"We have a responsibility to give to our community," she said.

At SVDP's Nov. 18 "Souport the End of Homelessness" Luncheon people can sample more than 50 soups and donate to support the winter's warming shelter to protect people from the cold.


For information, call 208-664-3095 or email
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2021