In the interest of getting some sort of history of our St. Thomas St. Vincent de Paul Conference, I asked
Phil Brady, whom I knew as a really very longtime hardworking Vincentian, and who was still very active along with his wife, Millie, to tell me some stories. He generously supplied the following, written by hand. I am grateful. Any errors of transcription are mine. Sally Debono
Phil Brady’s Notes re STA SVP Conference:
My name is Phil Brady. I returned from the Peace Corps in June, 1966, and was interested in continuing Peace Corps – like work in addition to pursuing my civil engineering career. I joined the SVDP Society at St. Thomas a year later.
At that time, SVDP was an all-male organization. It was started at St. Thomas in the early 1960’s by George Maley. Meetings were held once a week. Some of the early members were George Maley, Frank Kondrath, John VandeBosche, Jack Ryan, Matt Berg, Bob Kennie, Herb Carmichael, and Ray Cawthorne. We made home and hospital visits to old-timers, shut ins and the needy of the parish. I enjoyed these visits but the meetings were repetitive.
One of our early ambitious works involved removing existing wall paper and painting the interior of several rooms in Granma McCracken’s house in Rocky Ripple. Well, that’s the way it started. When we removed the wall paper, the plaster in place disintegrated. We removed it to the lath. But we weren’t plasterers so we purchased some pretty flowered wall board which we could attach to the lath. Matt Berg, with the assistance of Jack Ryan, began to anchor the wall board to the lath. When he missed the nail, he hit his thumb. Well, of course, Matt was upset. Jack was so concerned he asked Matt if there was anything he could do for him. Matt replied that Jack could hold the darn nail!
Bob Kennie was instrumental in starting a pantry in the basement of the parish center. This eventually lead to Mark Varnau and lots of volunteers developing a pantry that helps the needy not only of St. Thomas, but also St. Joan of Arc, Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Luke. The pantry was moved to its current location at 42nd St. and Boulevard Place. (( Many miracles of generosity and hard work made what seemed initially impossible, work.)) Cindy Brown, from St. Thomas heads up the pantry . We can help the needy in the neighborhood twice a month. Plans are being developed to enlarge the Pantry to allow more space for storage and more room for shopping.
The heart of our ministry is still the home visits. Needy within our parish boundaries are helped financially with rent and utility assistance and other monies as we are able. Basically, the SVDP envelope in the packet of monthly envelopes is our major source of income.
For several years, SVDP warehouse facilities were borrowed garages, but in 1969 , plus or minus, Don Heck donated a 2-story double with a little outbuilding at 23rd and Central Avenue for our first warehouse. We used the little building as a store/warehouse with the overflow stored in the double. Jesse Booke ran the store. It was the source of gasoline money for the truck. Al Hohman, who had recently retired, started looking for a real warehouse.
But I must digress. The property at 23rd and Central Avenue is now used by Gennesaret Free Clinic as temporary housing for homeless recovering from surgeries or other health issues.
A warehouse was found on the 1200 block of East Maryland St. The 100 year-old d 2 story building was a former mattress factory. Access to the second floor was and still is an elevator lifted by a heavy rope. It is inspected yearly by the city of Indianapolis elevator gurus.
The building became the SVDP Distribution Center with Al Hohman our first Manager. A fleet of box trucks with hydraulic lifts were acquired and volunteer Vincentians picked up donated items around Indianapolis and suburbs. Individuals and families in need came to the Distribution Center on Saturdays for help. (( Now, there is a so-called “referral desk” at Resale 27 Thrift Store.))
To the best of my memory, Al Hohman was followed by Ralph Speery, Betty Ferrel and Jeff Blackwell as managers.
But back to my career in the SVDP Society. My desire to continue doing SVDP work goes back to a call we made several years after I joined the society. A young family of meager means was setting up housekeeping near Raymond at Emerson Avenue. The apartment was furnished with a refrigerator and a stove only. The couple asked for anything they could get. We gathered up several beds, table and chairs, lamps, etc. I was the driver of the truck, Dick Henderson was the heavy lifter and his wife, Judy, was the brains.
When we arrived at the project site, we discovered three babies sleeping on a pile of rags in the bedroom. We quietly set up a full size bed, frame, box springs, mattress, sheets pillows and pillow cases. Then we gingerly picked up the babies and placed them on the bed without awakening them. We placed the dining room chairs against the bed to keep the children from rolling off. We gave the family the items they needed and left. I felt great satisfaction in that work and will never forget it.
My wife Millie and I loved Dick and Judy a lot land did many SVDP and social things together. Dick was a history buff but mostly a punster. We were always groaning at his puns.
One Saturday we stopped for a donation of a couch and ottoman. We would generally put our heads together to decide if the donation was usable by the needy. The couch looked good to me so I gave it an OK , but the ottoman had been used as a scratching post by the family cat and I rejected it. When we got in the truck to go to the next pick up, Dick turned to me and said “Who do you think you are—the Ottoman Umpire?”
Driving the truck was not my favorite chore. Backing into a driveway on north College Avenue, there were three mail boxes side by side on one post. I was able to knock off the middle one without damaging the other two.