Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Veteran St. Vincent de Paul employee steps down after 38 years – ‘she’s been here the longest and seen the most’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the May 3, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Shirley Anderson proudly displays her Joseph Sterm Award. The St. Vincent de Paul Society employee retired recently after 38 years with the organization. (IR photo)
Shirley Anderson is a lifelong resident of Spokane, a lifelong member of St. Francis Xavier Parish, and a 1962 graduate of Marycliff High School, the Catholic high school that closed in 1979. If that isn’t remarkable enough, soon she will retire after working for 38 years for Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Following graduation from Marycliff, Shirley attended a business college in Spokane, then went looking for work.
“I was looking for a job,” she recalls, “and I just couldn’t find one. Then my parish priest called and said there was a job at the Chancery. So I went up to the Chancery (then located at 317 S. Howard St.), and they needed a switchboard operator. Father (Theodoric) deJong (d. 1982) hired me, and I worked there for two years, and then when the freeway came through the building was sold, and I was out of a job again.”
Discouraged, Shirley didn’t know where to turn. “Then,” she says, “Father (Bernard) Barry (d. 2001) called from the cathedral the afternoon that we were closing the Chancery, and he said, ‘I have a job for you.’ So I went down to talk to him, and he said, ‘I’m going to hire you.’ I said, ‘I don’t know anything about all these (office) machines.’ Father (now Msgr.) (Frank) Bach called me into his office, and he said, ‘Father Barry is real tough, but if you do what he says he’ll be okay.’ Well, we became the best of friends, and I worked there for three years. But then I got laid off there. Computers came in, and so I was without a job again.”
Checking again with Father Bach (then director of Catholic Charities), Shirley was happy to hear that there was an opening at the St. Vincent de Paul Store. Her first day on the job was May 1, 1969, and that’s where she has worked ever since. “I’ve mainly been a cashier,” Shirley said. “Then back in the ’80s they came to me and said, ‘We want you to run our Broadway (Street) store, we know you can do it.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think I can.’ They said, ‘Well, we’re going to close it if you don’t go over there.’ So I went over there,” and in time, the store more than doubled its daily sales.
Shirley stayed at the Broadway St. Vincent de Paul store for about three years. “Then we moved to another store,” she says, “and I was transferred back out here (to the Trent Avenue store), then later I was transferred to our store at 224 W. Riverside Ave., and I worked there for 18 years. Then that closed — the roof leaked, and so forth — so I came back here to work. Then they needed somebody to work at the Hilliard store, so I went up there for about 10 or 12 years and ran that one. After that I came back here again, and I’ve been here until now.”
“In 1987,” Shirley says proudly, “I was given the Joseph Stern Award, which is given to a St. Vincent de Paul employee who” — and here she reads from the framed certificate — “‘has shown dedicated service to the Society through their devoted efforts.’ That was given to me by Bruno Kensock, the president of the board at that time.”
The long-time St. Vincent de Paul employee says that she is “very much in favor of serving the poor, because I’ve been there. What I’ve enjoyed most about working at St. Vincent de Paul has been meeting the people. I can go anywhere in this town and know a lot of people. I thank (the) St. Vincent de Paul (Society) for having me for 38 years. It has been a home for me.”
Shirley Anderson enjoys playing bingo, so she looks forward to being able to do that more often in retirement. “I live across the street from the parish,” Shirley says, “so I’ll try to go to Mass more often.”
Adrienne Brownlow, executive director of Spokane’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, says: “Shirley has worked for St. Vincent de Paul for 38 years, and she has had nearly perfect attendance throughout those years. She’s a very dedicated and very loyal employee. She’s always where she says she’s going to be, and she has been a real asset. She probably knows more about the operations than any manager ever has because she’s been here the longest and seen the most.”