About Us

History of St. John the Baptist, St. Vincent DePaul Conference

In November of 1969, Father Andres approached Irvin Metz to restart the St. Vincent DePaul Conference for the parish and surrounding area.  STJB SVDP had been associated with STJB for over 80 years but had gone dormant. Irvin approached fellow parishioner, Joe Simpson, and the two worked with the Cincinnati District Council downtown to setup the conference (STJB SVDP).  They used a small room in the basement of the old school as a meeting place.  Vincentians from St. Aloysius provided $100 in seed money and guidance when needed.   The Vincentians who restarted SVDP 40+ years ago were:

Irvin Metz

Postman, Logan County Indiana

Household: 8

Joe Simpson

General Motors

Household:  11

Bob Deters

President, United Savings, Price Hill

Household:  6

Orville Kinkler

President, 1st National Bank, Harrison

Fred Dole

Owner Whitewater General Store

Household:  5

Lou Rolfes

Co-Owner Whitewater General Store

Household:  4

You can’t spot a Vincentian based on a particular profile, profession, family size or social status. These Vincentians were men of the parish who heard the call to serve and answered it. Some members passed it down to their children like Jeff Dole (Fred Dole) and Barb Banks (Irvin Metz) who serve to this day.  These volunteers and their service to our neighbors inspired many other parishioners to answer the same call.  After years of “men only" serving in the STJB SVDP conference the Holy Spirit called Sandy Brielmaier to join which caused a little stir in the parish because some believed that women shouldn’t serve alongside the men.  Founding member Joe Simpson met with Father Shine for guidance and the only questions Father Shine had was, “Is she a practicing Catholic” and “Is she helping serve our neighbors”?  Since Sandy joined many men AND women have followed and are helping to serve our neighbors.

A short list of other Vincentians serving neighbors over the years were Don Humbert, Debbie McEnzie, Bill Tibbets, Jane O’Connell/Wise, Rich and Joyce Stenger, Rita Huey, Dale Bley, Dennis Dole and Lewis Rolfes.  It also includes Vincentians who are Associate Members because they are not Catholic which is not unique to the STJB SVDP conference. All Vincentians past, present and future heard or will hear the same call to serve neighbors and answer.  Like Sandy some approached and asked to help and many were personally invited by members but all are welcome who wish to work together to serve neighbors in need demonstrating God’s compassion and love. We invite you to serve with us.

Assistance Provided:

When the conference started it focused on food, rent, utilities and basic furniture needs.  STJB SVDP worked with local pantries and stores in the area to address the food needs.  STJB SVDP worked with Maurice Cordray who ran the Share Shop on Harrison Avenue and the IGA store that was on State Line Road.  Businesses were given the neighbors name who then visited, shopped and checked out.  STJB SVDP would then settle all bills at the end of the month.  While STJB SVDP may have started with a simpler mission following the principle that, “No act of charity is foreign to St. Vincent de Paul” it expanded the scope and reach of the services to our neighbors. Examples of our offerings today follow:

·         Pray with neighbors in the same non-judgmental compassion Christ showed us all.

·     Mentor neighbors about the resources and programs available to help them like:

o   PIPP+ (Percentage or Income Payment Plan)

o   LIHEAP (Low-Income Heat Energy Assistance Program)

o   Winter Rule (now called Special Reconnect Order)

o   Using Medical Certificates

o   How to negotiate the 1/3rd, 1/6th or 1/9th Payment Plans

o   Guide the homeless to Shelters for Families, Men or Women Only (Heart House, Haven House..)

o   Educate them with prescription drug costs (SVDP Pharmacies, Programs.

o   Many others....

·    We develop and use partnerships with area churches to:

o   Meet neighbor’s financial needs that exceed our ability or stewardship guidelines.

o   Provide monthly hot meals and our pantry food to our homebound neighbors.

·     Help neighbors pay rent and utility bills

·     Help neighbors find and keep jobs

·     Work with area mechanics to help neighbors with cars repairs

·     Working along side the Cub Scout pack 408 we provided Thanksgiving meals to neighbors

·     Provided pantry food to the hungry by delivery and at our pantry

·     We recycle gently used donated furniture to families in need

·     We provide refurbished mattresses and frames to neighbors because sleep is important.

·     Working with the Harrison Knights of Columbus Council 2633 collecting\distributing new\donated winter gear.

·     Working with the STJB school and Boy Scout Troop 408 we hold food/paper product drives to stock the pantry

Fund Raising:

STJB SVDP has relied on the parish, generous anonymous benefactors and the community for funding.  During the early years Joe Simpson made a wooden box for donations for the poor that still exists today at the old church location.  Today the “Donations for the poor box” has been replaced by a 5th Sunday collection via the church offertory.  Occasionally, STJB SVDP calls on area businesses for support and finds a generous response with many wishing to remain anonymous. We have also had membership that freely give of their own time, treasure and talent making personal donations to cover neighbor’s needs.

The Harrison Mayor’s fund is a source of assistance to non-profit charitable organizations like STJB SVDP.  This fund began when then Mayor, Rocky Small, and, Whitewater General Store Owner, Fred Dole (SVDP Member), were trying to find a way to get turkey dinner fixings to neighbors in need.   Since SVDP and the mayor started the fund it has grown substantially in size, scope and complexity.

Neighbor Stories:

Following are stories about some of the neighbors we have helped over the years.

·         STJB SVDP was contacted by Oldenburg Academy about a student that was academically gifted, involved in the school’s ministry and service programs but unable to afford the tuition. The student’s parents were medically disabled with one being blind and the other on permanent dialysis. He worked jobs after school but any money he earned went to support his parents and himself. STJB SVDP partnered with the school and covered all of the student’s tuition balances for the remaining high school years.

·         A single mother and daughter lived in an apartment in Harrison with the daughter attending Harrison Junior high school.  The young lady went to school each day hiding a secret from her teachers and friends. Every night when she went home it was to an apartment without a single piece of furniture and cupboards that were bare much of the time. They had no couches, kitchen tables or beds and so they slept on the floor.  Their clothes were neatly piled in the floors of their bedrooms. .  They had lived like this for over a year when STJB SVDP met them.  STJB SVDP, through the generosity of the parish, was able to provide a full set of gently used donated furniture, mattresses and bed frames and stock their shelves with food.  As soon as the bed was setup the young lady dove on the bed.

·         A Harrison citizen was crippled and needed assistance for many things. STJB SVDP would take her to sign up for benefits, medical appointments and to handle personal affairs.  This neighbor grew to trust SVDP more than her family.

·         A young lady called the church in the winter asking if they would help her get coal to heat her trailer. Her husband had left her and 5 children to fend for themselves after moving them into the area. They had very little furniture, food and clothes as she could barely managed to cover rent. The church priest reached out to STJB SVDP in the evening after businesses were closed. The members called an area business who met them after hours to give them the coal that they took to the single mother.  On entering her trailer a member said they could see through her floor to the ground. The cupboards were bare and the young mother didn’t have milk or formula for her baby. They worked with the old Village Pharmacy on Harrison Avenue and IGA to resolve the formula and food issues. The young mother told them she had family that would take them in but she could not afford for them to all travel. STJB SVDP looked into it and provided bus tickets for her and her 5 children to return home.

·         In the early 1970’s a young couple reached out to the church for assistance. They were in their mid 20’s when the husband got sick and could not work. The bills piled up with the little money the wife was able to make. By the time the church called in STJB SVDP the couple had $2,200 utility bill. STJB SVDP worked with the couple taking care of the extras like food, rent and medical bills till they got caught up. They worked with the couple off and on for 14-15 years until the young man finally died from the illness. STJB SVDP attended the service and the wife told them that without the “extras” they helped them with they would have never made it through those times. 

Odds and Ends:

These are items collected in talking to some of the older STJB SVDP members. We found them interesting and we hope you do too:

·         US Shoe operated a small factory on Dair Street from 1937 to about 1992 when they closed it down. The building still stands today. They would donate their Red Cross shoes and STJB SVDP would give them out to folks who needed them.  No, the “Red Cross” shoes were not the emergency organization but instead a red-haired merchant named Cross and this women’s line became very popular.

·         The Super-X drug store worked with STJB SVDP to help neighbors in need. It was located in what was the “old Kroger building”, which over the years has been a CVS, Big Lots and is now empty, in the old strip mall across from Wendy’s.  STJB SVDP helped one neighbor who needed monthly medication for over 10 years until he passed from illness.

·         When STJB SVDP began, its members would take furniture donations and deliveries into Over the Rhine downtown.  Those areas were known to be very rough so retired Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Dale Bley would ride along or have a cruiser meet them. Today, each conference has a specific geographic making it easier to service neighbors in those areas.

·         Dennis Dole always eager to help had a saying, “Whatever it takes!” and “We’ll be there in 20 minutes and 14 seconds”.  Dennis brought a humble sense of humor into the service.

·         STJB SVDP partnered with the old “Share Shop” on Harrison Avenue, run by Maurice Cordray, that operated like a Goodwill, of sorts, offering donated clothes and food.  The Share Shop operated for over 10 years. They were located near the old 1st National Bank which is Heist & Co.  today.  Neighbors would go in and take what they needed and STJB SVDP would stop and settle up accounts later.

·         Fred Dole, Jeff Dole’s father, was a founding member and owner-operator of Whitewater General Store located on the corner of Harrison Avenue and State Street, which today is 1860 Taproom and Bottleshop. When neighbors needed groceries, Fred never turned them away. Back then in Harrison at his store, folks could buy “on account” and come in later to pay when they had the means.  Jeff advised me that after his father passed they found an old store ledger with many old unpaid balances and his father never said anything about it.  Fred also owned rental properties around Harrison that he ran with the same generosity and patience whenever possible.

Current and Future:

In 2022 STJB SVDP voted to build a pantry after getting approval from Father Kemper\Ruwe and parish counsel. the conference held a fundraiser for building the food pantry and furniture ministry building on the old STJB campus. This will allow the conference to expand what it provides such as fresh items like fruits and vegetables. The building will be in a safer location for the workers and neighbors who visit us the 2 Saturdays per month that the pantry is open to neighbors. This will also reduce storage costs for the furniture ministry and make it easier and more convenient.

After the pantry we have discussed to starting what is called a “Mini Vinnies Chapter” at the STJB School. This would be for elementary and junior high children to create a community service group. They will meet, vote in officers, run meetings and develop service ideas that they will pitch to the STJB Conference. The conference will then vote on the best ideas, fund and work with the Mini Vinnies if called for. They will be able to help in the pantry stocking shelve, rotating stock and cleaning for service hours if they like.

Last year the last founding member, Joe Simpson, retired after 40+ years of assisting his neighbors in need. Joe is a quiet humble service oriented Vincentian that inspired this writer to join STJB SVDP. Joe was a big part of the furniture ministry and still lends his truck for that use today and he and Jeff Dole invited me to ride along. I listened to Joe tell his stories from years of helping neighbors and I was hooked. Joe passed the torch on the Jeff Dole and myself (Cleve Cornelius) for the furniture ministry