On April 19, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County hosted its annual Legacy Dinner. The dinner supports the mission of the society, which has served St. Joseph County since 1904, and includes an auction.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades opened the evening with an invocation and some introductory remarks, noting that “the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County does not only give food and clothes. They give love.”
Keynote speaker for the evening was former NFL offensive lineman Shawn Harper. Growing up on the south side of Columbus, Harper and his family leaned on organizations with missions similar to that of St. Vincent de Paul. These organizations impacted his ability to overcome the hurdles of poverty and significant learning disabilities.
“I was held back in second grade … couldn’t complete a sentence until I was in college … watched my father leave when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Harper explained. “Mom raised us by herself, and we depended on organizations (similar to St. Vincent de Paul).”
Over the course of his presentation, Harper detailed how his lifelong dream of becoming an NFL football player eventually fueled his motivation for creating a better life for himself. He went on to say that he also attributes his success to mentors and others, including those from charitable organizations, whom he thanked for “seeing the king in the kid.”
Local high school student Madeline Credi received recognition for her work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County. Executive Director Anne Hosinki Watson presented Credi with the St. Louise de Marrilac Young Vincentian Scholarship.
Employees from Gibson, the company responsible for processing payroll and benefit administration for the society, volunteered at the event. Samantha Stern was one such volunteer.
“St. Vincent is a wonderful not-for-profit,” Stern said. “I am just lucky that I was able to volunteer at the event and be a small part of helping the community.”
Debra Hughes and her husband, Chris, who attend St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Bristol, were two of the approximately 300 in attendance. Hughes was very much inspired by Harper’s words.
“His story is fantastic, how he got from where he was to where he is by a series of events so amazing as to be miraculous,” Hughes said. “I believe that is how God works, that He takes the difficulties of my life that I offer Him and turns them around to bring miracles to me and those around me. That is a great message to hear and to share.”
Last year, gifts to the society fed 53,255 individuals, clothed 8,981 people, distributed $16,704 worth of furniture, enrolled 13 participants in its Bridges Out of Poverty program and provided $28,789 in financial assistance in St. Joseph County alone.
During her remarks at the Legacy Dinner, Watson explained how support gained by the event influenced these good works.
“All of this was made possible through the generosity of donors like you,” she said. “That is what tonight is about — it’s about coming together to do good, to help those who are struggling in our community. Supporting the St. Vincent de Paul Society is truly an investment in our community.”
Harper echoed Watson’s sentiments.
“I thank you for the obedience, the faith and the dedication to change the trajectory of people’s lives,” he said. “It’s about coming together to do good for the community.”
“When you invest in people, you create dividends,” he went on to say.
By giving those in need the basic tools for success, the St. Vincent de Paul Society invests in people. Those they invest in are then more readily able to help others and give back to the community themselves. The Legacy Dinner propels this cycle, and the support from it helps the society realize its mission.
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