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St. Vincent de Paul recognizes dedication of volunteers

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Thursday, October 21, 2010
By Sister Eileen Connelly, OSU
ARCHDIOCESE — They want to help others. It’s as simple as that for the volunteers who serve with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Cincinnati (SVDP).

The organization, which has assisted residents of Hamilton County for more than 140 years, recognized the dedication of long-time volunteers Sept. 26 at its annual fellowship banquet, held at the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood. The event followed a special commissioning ceremony during Mass at Holy Trinity Parish.
John Werdman
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul recently recognized John Werdman for his 70 years of service to his neighbors in need. He is pictured here with Liz Carter, executive director. (Courtesy photo)
Among those honored was John Werdman, a member of SVDP at St. Clare Parish in College Hill, who has served his neighbors in need for the last 70 years. Werdman, following in his father’s footsteps, began volunteering as a senior at St. Xavier High School.
“I just wanted reach out to other people,” he explained. “We had a lot to be thankful for in my family.”
Most of Werdman’s ministry over the years has been making homes visits, the person-to-person outreach that is the cornerstone of SVDP. Werdman makes such visits every Wednesday and Saturday as he is able. The Vincentians provide resource information and possible assistance with rent and utilities. They may also distribute grocery store vouchers. Most importantly, they offer fellowship, a listening ear and a caring heart.
In addition, Werdman, now a member of St. Vivian Parish in Finneytown, and his fellow volunteers have visited residents of the Llanfair Retirement Community.
“When I first started, I had no idea that 70 years later, I’d still be active with St. Vincent de Paul, much less that in 2010 I’d be learning a new database software system to more effectively help our neighbors in need,” Werdman said. “Being a Vincentian is not really about how many hours you spend volunteering. It really becomes a way of life, part of you who are and an expression of your faith.”
Bob Fischesser, a volunteer for 55 years and a member of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish, agrees. His motivation for becoming involved in SVDP was similar to that of Werdman. “I just wanted to do something for somebody else,” he said.
Fischesser has made many nursing home visits to various facilities during his years as a volunteer, including currently playing monthly bingo with residents at Three Rivers Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
“I enjoy being around the people,” he said. “If you’ve been going regularly, then miss a time, the residents want to know where you’ve been. I’ve developed a relationship with them. They’re like family.” 
Thirteen other Vicentians were also recognized during the ceremony for that same willingness to reach out to others. They are: 45 years, Norbert Schomaker, Our Lady of the Rosary, Green Hills, and Don Willmes, Our Lady of Victory, Delhi; 40 years, Neal Slageter, St. Teresa Avila, Covedale; 35 years, Ray Vockel, St. Margaret of Cortona, Madisonville, Jerry Metz, St. Bernard, Spring Grove Village, Bill Shoemaker, St. Therese, the Little Flower, Mt. Airy; 30 years, Anthony Brueneman, St. Margaret of Cortona, Bob Barbara, St. Vivian; 25 years, Lou Yauss, St. Bernard, Wilma Smith and Shirley Williams, St. Joseph, West End; 20 years, Frank Deimling, St. Jerome, California, and Demetrius Broyles, Church of the Resurrection, Bond Hill.
During the fellowship banquet three special awards were also given out. The Top Hat Award this year went to Paul Blom, a member of St. James of the Valley Parish in Wyoming  and a volunteer for more than 50 years. During that time he has helped some 5,000 families with food, utility bills, rent and other requests for assistance. This award recognizes a Vincentian who exemplifies the spirit of the society.
The Fires of Faith Award, presented each year to a member who helps to strengthen and bring to life the spirituality of Vincentians, went to Jon Brennan, a founding member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Michael Parish in Sharonville. Brennan provides engaging prayers, discussions and educational readings that help connect the volunteers with their faith.
The Ozanam Award was presented to Paul Kluesner, a graduate of Elder High School who lives in Mt. Healthy. Kluesner has enjoyed his retirement, while serving those in need as a volunteer with St. Clare Parish and St. Paul United Church of Christ in College Hill.
This award is presented to a person who exemplifies the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul without necessarily being a member.
“Each person we honored and recognized that weekend is so deserving. I am in awe of everything they have done and continue to do for people in need across Hamilton County,” said Liz Carter, executive director of SVDP.
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