Dear Sister and Brother Vincentians,
Peace be with you. I hope that you and your family has had a healthy, happy, and blessed Christmas season. Despite the challenges, I hope that you chose to keep goodness in the Christmas season even if your holidays were scaled down. This past year has been like no other in many respects.
1. Cause for Hope and Optimism in a Difficult Year
Difficult times can bring out people’s “best self.” Physical social distancing, masks? Sure. Emotional closeness and support? Absolutely! That is precisely what has happened this past year at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit.
During this dreadful Covid-19 (COVID) pandemic, our Archdiocese has had so many people, good people, find themselves in dire straits. At SVdPD, we did shutter our Central Office and retail operations for three long months; and our Vincentians were challenged to improvise on how best to assist our neighbors. But every day this past year, whether in person or remotely, SVdPD did its best to hear and meet the cries of those in need. In the eyes of those we served, we saw the suffering Christ. We did not judge those we served. Rather, the true measure of Vincentian compassion for others was in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. At SVdPD, therefore, we not only served those in need together, we did so willingly, cheerfully, and in a manner that helped them to restore some dignity and hope. Moreover consistent with our Rule, we strive to grow in holiness with prayer and by expressing compassionate and tender comfort to the poor and to one another. During a most challenging year for so many, those provided some optimism.
2. SVdPD Council – A “Difficult” Year in Review
As I have for the past two years, I present a third “year in review” from the CEO perspective of how our Central Office and Retail teams contributed to our Council’s efforts for 2020, by so many measures, a truly difficult year.
As you are aware, our Council is a business with a $14 million dollar operating budget. To function properly, accountability, efficiency, protocols, and stewardship, among other things, are essential. That is undeniable. Consistent with those realities, however, our staff also lives the Vincentian mission. Indeed, several are Vincentians. Our staff’s efforts are not only essential to ensuring that our Council remains fiscally strong and running smooth, but to supporting our Vincentian family and its efforts in helping those we serve.
We are so blessed to have a dedicated staff of talented, committed employees who are led by our incredible Servant Leadership Team. Together, they epitomize what can be done when a group respects one another, focuses on an inspirational mission, and works together. We are also blessed by a dedicated Board, Foundation Board, committee members, generous donors, and many other really committed, talented people who generously share their particular expertise and/or financial support. Heartfelt thanks to all!
OVERVIEW OF 2020 ACTIVITIES
Our motto is “See the Possible.” This past year, our Servant Leadership Team and every member of our staff saw what was possible. Here’s a sampling of what we accomplished together.
- Notwithstanding the significant impact of COVID, we finished a third straight fiscal year in the black. With the help of PPP funds, we were able to operate from a cash flow standpoint without the need to utilize any funds from major bequests or savings. After years of financial instability, this is a very noteworthy team success.
- Received a $1 Million grant from DTE Energy to expand access to families needing utility assistance.
- Received a $300,000 grant through the Emergency Food & Shelter Program Phase CARES, allowing conferences to assist neighbors with rent/mortgage.
- Restructured our Council’s Servant Leadership Team prior to COVID, to increase efficiencies. The decision proved providential. With talent and commitment, Tom Butler and Mary Torok capably managed our finances and operations through COVID.
- Successfully completed the annual audit by three + months sooner than last year’s.
- Used summer 2020 to make significant repairs and improvements at Camp Ozanam.
- Maintained effective, internal communication by implementing regularly scheduled Zoom meetings among our District Presidents, Board President, and CEO.
- Hosted the first visit to our Council in seven years by our National CEO, Dave Barringer. Dave had an opportunity to visit our Dixie store and meet via
- Zoom with our Council’s Leadership Team and Board President.
- Arranged to deliver thousands of pounds of donated food to donor designated conferences within the City of Detroit.
- Participated in Crain’s Annual Giving guide.
COVID- Related Activities
- Distributed $160,000 to our Districts to help fund COVID relief programs.
- Implemented a COVID Safety & Response Plan based on CDC guidelines (including PPE protocols) and worked with Echo Media on COVID campaign/signage for all SVdPD locations. The safety of our Vincentians, staff, business invitees, and neighbors in need remains paramount.
- Distributed the very generous donation of disposable masks manufactured for essential workers to all staff. Replacement supplies will last through next Spring.
- Raised $137,556. through a special COVID fundraising appeal.
- Conducted 40 Zoom meetings among our Servant Leadership Team to ensure seamless management of our Council during the three months that COVID-Executive Orders shut down our physical operations. To promote communication and coordination of efforts, our Board President attended every meeting.
- The Energy Assistance Program (EAP) team continued to serve neighbors virtually
- Conducted monthly Virtual Town Halls to check in and keep everyone connected.
- Participated in weekly, national calls with SVdPD counterparts from across the country to learn and share information regarding our Council’s response to COVID.
- Obtained a COVID PPP Loan and managed the process for filing for forgiveness.
- Focused on extensive and active cash flow management and reporting to ensure seamless management through the COVID shut-down and re-opening.
- Adopted 18 internal financial controls recommended by an outside financial advisor.
- Streamlined banking (e.g. improved internal controls, reduced costs) by transitioning from 6 banks/14 accounts to 2 banks/6 accounts.
- Successfully completed the FY21 Budget.
Development & Marketing
- Secured $220,000 in additional grant support, i.e. in addition to DTE.
- Created and produced our virtual Top Hat Ball Un-Gala in three months due to restrictions caused by COVID.
- Our Top Hat virtual event featured a robust, timely panel discussion among four nationally recognized experts on community and social justice.
- To view the Top Hat Ball Ball Un-Gala, just click on
- Top Hat raised more than $175,000.
- Raised the profile of our Council and thereby kept annual fund donations strong with over 500 new donors and, despite COVID, donations totaled $7,200 over last year. Since FY18, we have increased our Annual Fund, not including bequests or memorials, by 42%.
We, of course, are blessed to have dedicated Vincentians; and I applaud all who sustained efforts to help those in need this past year of COVID. We continue to collect and process Annual Reports from our Conferences. At the moment, therefore, I do not have final information to share about our Vincentians’ prodigious efforts during 2020. I plan to do so at next month’s Zoom annual meeting. Meantime, I extend heartfelt thanks to all Vincentians who helped others in need this past year. In addition,
- Our 2020 Annual Meeting (January 19) was held at Sacred Heart Major Seminary including an interactive spirituality component with SVDP National Spiritual Advisor Bishop Donald Hying.
- SVdPD Feast Day Mass (September 27) was held at St. Katari Parish with SVdPD Spiritual Advisor Bishop Donald Hanchon presiding over mass. The event was livestreamed virtually for all to attend.
- Provided regular spirituality support to Vincentians during COVID shut down period. Also created virtual trainings and formation events.
- A total of 8 training programs were offered prior to the COVID shutdown.
- Created virtual trainings and formation events in order to continue supporting new and existing Vincentian members, including the kick off of Coffee With Vincent, a seven part weekly formation event that included reflection and conversation about Serving With Hope, Module 1.
- Despite the impact of COVID related shut downs for over three months, limited store hours, and a 50% loss in our workforce, YOY sales showed relative loss of only $200K.
- Donations were up 58% YOY. The additional product positions the stores and RRC for sales growth, especially during the winter months when donations trend lighter.
- RRC has been “Kaizened” with new processes and cost saving improvements to streamline efficiencies in order to better serve the stores and donation bins.
- $183,552 of goods were distributed to neighbors in need through our retail stores/conference referral program.
- Kicked off new Manager in Training Program.
Energy Assistance Program
- EAP and Conferences together served a total of 4,076 households with energy assistance and self-sufficiency services.
- The nimbleness of the team allowed us to continue to serve our neighbors throughout the pandemic. Beginning in March through September of 2019, the EAP team and SVdPD Conferences accomplished the following:
- 808 neighbors were enrolled into energy assistance Affordable Payment Plans.
- Provided an additional 1,418 neighbors with utility bill payments.
- Supported 2,301 families with self-sufficiency services.
- Created an online application which provided 707 families with safe access to utility assistance during the pandemic.
As a result of these and other efforts, our Council has continued its three year journey to get stronger and more stable.
Think back to January 1, 2020. A new year began and brought with it great promise. Certainly no one in our organization had a clue what was about to happen to our world, our nation, and our hometown. We suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a continuing, ferocious storm that has wreaked havoc on so many other organizations. Who had even heard of COVID? Who had heard of Zoom?
Thanks to an incredible team effort, our Council weathered 2020 and the insidious COVID storm remarkably well. Heartfelt gratitude to everyone in our organization for your tireless efforts on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Detroit . Clearly, we are not yet out of this health crisis. Please continue to follow recommended safety protocols.
We have arrived at yet another New Year’s Day; and, for a variety of reasons, it brings “stirrings within us of new courage and new hope toward that future rushing at us”. Rev Gilbert Bowen. What lies ahead, of course, is still shrouded with considerable unsettling uncertainty.
No matter what the future holds, let us consider the poignant reminder by Heisman Trophy recipient, Tim Tebow, who said, “just as the moon reflects the sun, in life we are called to be reflections of the Son.” As we embrace what lies ahead, may we help one another remain focused on our inspirational mission and on those we serve. If we allow it, love can be a burning torch in the darkness that, by its warmth and light, helps us find our way. Let us choose to be sisters and brothers for each other.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and blessed New Year! Stay safe. God bless.
In Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s name,