History in Edmonton

History of SSVP in Edmonton

The Early Years

In the 1980s, before any formal Society was established in Edmonton, Mr. John Hadoway operated independently under the name of St. Vincent De Paul out of his home, bringing groceries and bits of furniture to people in need. In the early 1990’s he was joined by Paul Nyebik and in 1996 by Gregory Amerongen.

But around the year 2000, under the guidance of Western Regional Council President Don Hunter, attempts began at formalizing Conferences (Chapters) in the city. The first Conference was Basilica which formed under Jack Robertson (President) and Bill Finn (Vice President) in July 2000. Good Shepherd Conference was established in 2001 under Pat Bennetto, but this first effort did not survive due to moves of personnel. In 2001, St. John/Holy Spirit Conference formed under Eileen Orysiuk. And that same year, with the help of David Lyder, an experienced Vincentian from Kelowna, Tri-Parish Conference was established to include the St. Agnes, St. Anthony's and St Thomas More Parishes. Ed Metro was its first President followed by Ron Smith who was elected in 2002. His Grace Archbishop Thomas Collins was most supportive, giving his blessings to all these early efforts.

Pantries were set up to provide a reserve of food stuffs, and personal pick-up trucks were commandeered for furniture pickup and deliveries. Operating at first out of a “Mini-Storage” unit Ron Smith, Peter Lema, Henry Prince and Mike Dejur covered furniture needs for the whole Southside including Mill Woods. The Blue Van was purchased by Finn/Robertson to serve the 3 to 4 Conferences on the North and West side. In 2002, Bob Prestash responded to a call for delivery help that appeared in a Church Bulletin. He turned up at St. Andrew’s Elementary School, the use of which Eileen Orysiuk had obtained from the Catholic School Board. Two small rooms of about 750 square feet each, were the beginnings of the Distribution Centre (DC), to gather, sort, and send out clothing, housewares and furniture to the needy. Bob’s old Dodge made many trips to and from that DC in the following months.

The Years of Growth

However, many issues remained unresolved among these early Conferences as to where boundaries should lie, as well as other questions concerning operation and responsibilities. In 2002, Lynn L’Heureux became President of Western Regional Council, and suggested the establishment of a Particular Council to oversee the operations of the three Conferences in existence at that time. On Oct 26/2002 Bob Prestash was elected as President of the Edmonton Particular Council for the Relief of Poverty.

From the positive response coming from people in need, these early Conferences realized that they should spread the word and encourage other Parishes to follow suit. The “early movers”, Ron Smith, Bob Prestash and others, spoke at many Churches including Assumption, Ascension, Leduc, Mill Woods, St. Andrews, Sherwood Park, and others. Good Shepherd formed again in early 2004 under Jane Burghardt. By 2006 almost all Parishes in the Archdiocese had formed Conferences, some 16 in total as well as the isolated Conference at Lloydminster.

As a result of this growth in numbers, administrative load and oversight requirements grew. To make this manageable, three Particular Councils were formed, each overseeing 5 to 6 Conferences. Gail Dumas headed up the Edmonton West P.C., Dan Brister headed up Edmonton North, and Bernie Schoenberger the South for several years. Bob Prestash continued as President overall, with his office operating as Central Council, although this arrangement had yet to be formalized within the National organization.

Recent Years

On Bob Prestash’s retirement in 2007 to follow other pursuits, Bob Mckenzie took over the Presidency, and in April 2009 Bernie McCracken took on these responsibilities. During the period 2001 through 2011 the opportunity to help those in need had grown dramatically. The DC moved to St. Basil School around the year 2003 into a space of about 3,000 sq.ft. In 2006, it was moved into the Chapel at St. Joseph’s School, a space of approximately 4,000 sq.ft. plus 2,000 sq.ft. of storage at St. Patrick’s School. The DC has been a very busy place under the guidance of Daryl Dittrich, and in his absence Emile Gagne, Jean Craig and many wonderful volunteers.

In 2008, a call-answering service was engaged to handle the ever increasing volume of calls for help, and donations, amounting to some 1,200 calls per month in 2010. The system employs e-mail messages with specific information which are relayed accurately and efficiently to home visitors and pickup crews. This has allowed the Society to keep up with the dramatic increase in the demand for its services. Thanks to the Knights of Columbus, our Society has two trucks of three tons each, and a cube van which the Rotary Club helped to buy. These trucks ply the streets of Edmonton most days, bringing much needed beds, tables, and dignity to friends in need. In 2011, the 450 volunteers ...... visiting, preparing clothing and household items, bringing food or furniture, bringing encouragement and the love of Christ, ...... feel satisfied that they are doing the right thing for others, for society, and for God.

In 2014 Mary Dunnigan assumed presidency. Call numbers increase continually and when forced to move from St. Patrick School, found another warehouse in downtown Edmonton. New conferences were formed, including one on the University of Alberta campus (St. Thomas Aquinas), a French conference (St Frere Andre), and in 2017 St. Edmund Conference.

Stephen Dufresne succeeded Mary as president of the Edmonton Central Council, followed by Randy Yatscoff in 2021. Today the society has active conferences in 28 locations across the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

Prepared November 2011 and updated 2021

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