By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
More than 350 people of all ages served as “friends of the poor” Sept. 21 when they participated in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s 12th Annual Friends of the Poor Walk on the grounds of the Evansville State Hospital along Lincoln Ave. “It’s so exciting to see everyone,” SVdP Executive Director Vicki Eichmiller said in welcoming the walkers. “We are so grateful for your support.”
Eichmiller told the crowd that corporate sponsorship this year hit $25,000. Volunteer Bill Hussmann, who coordinated the Walk for the Poor, told the crowd that some of the sponsor signs they would walk past are 12 years old “because we have some loyal supporters who have been with us every year.” Every year, walkers leave from the same spot and walk through a row of signs highlighting corporate sponsors.
Hussmann is one of the most familiar faces at the Walk for the Poor because he has volunteered throughout its history. Another – and quite possibly the most familiar face – was missing. For several years, the late Vince Brenner attended the walk dressed as St. Vincent de Paul. He posed for photos with the walkers and sent all of them on their way as the annual walks began.
Brenner died in May, and Eichmiller recognized his wife, Carolyn, who attended the walk, before she and Hussmann introduced a new St. Vincent de Paul. Longtime SVdP volunteer Tim Gehlhausen has taken over Brenner’s role, and he led participants on this year’s walk. “Tim is a longtime Vincentian,” Hussmann said. “He definitely acts – and looks – the part.”
Eichmiller thanked all of the SVdP conferences, each affiliated with a Diocese of Evansville parish, that work to lift people up through support in a variety of ways. Funds raised by the Friends of the Poor Walk go to various conferences to assist their ministries.
She also recognized Benedictine Sister Donna Marie Herr, who manages the SVdP Food Pantry in Evansville, for her efforts to run that ministry “like a fine-tuned machine.”
Eichmiller also talked about the SVdP program that provides free or very-low-cost bedding for families and individuals in need. “I am thrilled to tell you that we literally have gotten more than 3,000 people off the floor by providing them with beds,” she said. “For some of them, this is the first bed they have ever owned.”
The society welcomes volunteers. For more information, visit https://www.svdpevansville.org/ or talk to staff at your parish about a conference and ways you can help.