Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Pasco retires debt in record time

the Inland Register

(From the February 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

The St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Patrick Parish, Pasco, has retired the debt on its new Food Bank and Community Services building. (IR photo courtesy of the St. Vincent de Paul Society)

When was the last time you heard of a small non-profit paying off a multi-million dollar debt in a matter of months? Yet that is exactly what the St. Patrick Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Pasco did on Nov. 30 last year when it retired the $1.8 million debt taken on to construct its new Food Bank and Community Services facility.

Drawing on a combination of community fundraising, government grants, a major bequest, and savings, the 10-member conference and its supporters gathered over $1.8 million in just three years, completely paying off the 16,000 square foot warehouse and office building less than two years after moving into it.

The new building allows the Pasco Vincentians to serve 850-900 families per week, providing food, clothing, and access to an array of social services. Last year, more than 4,000 separate families – nearly 15,000 people – were served, and 2,487,100 pounds of food distributed at the building.

“The mustard seed truly blossomed into a tree beyond our expectations,” said Sina Pierret, who was president of the conference throughout the project’s fundraising and construction.

“Our capital campaign was started in December 2012,” Pierret said. “We broke ground in April 2013 and moved into the new building in December of that year.”

The straightforward progress of that timeline belied the complexity of the planning, challenge of the fundraising, and sense of urgency that characterized the effort. But it was an undertaking that had its origins in serendipity.

“For many years the City of Pasco had wanted to build a new Lewis Street overpass, and they needed the property our old building sat on,” Pierret said. “By 2010, it became clear they were going to get it either by negotiation or condemnation.”

The motivation the city offered was timely. The old St. Vincent facility, built in 1940, was well past its prime. In fact, it was downright dangerous.

“We had to rope off part of the clothing section because the wooden floor was rotted,” said Pierret. “We were afraid someone would fall through into the cellar.”

The building was freezing cold in winter, furnace-hot in summer, and was inadequately wired. Every switch flipped risked throwing the place into darkness.

But the city’s interest in the property didn’t offer a windfall. The age and poor condition of the property meant the buy-out was nowhere near rebuilding cost. And it was clear the Vincentians would need to draw funding from a number of sources, and simultaneously, as the City of Pasco gave the conference just two years to complete the project.

So a capital campaign was designed. Patrick Roach and Maureen Vincent were named its co-chairpersons, and a plan involving donations, government grants, and loans was devised. Under Roach’s and Vincent’s leadership, donations began flowing in. A $740,000 bridge loan was secured, enabling construction to begin. All legal hurdles were overcome, and the state was approached for grants.

“Securing the grants was the part that required determination,” said Pierret. “With the support of our District 16 legislators, Maureen Walsh and Terry Nealey, and neighboring 8th District representative Brad Klippert, we applied for grants in the 2013 and 2014 sessions. Our 2013 request for $750,000 was not approved. In 2014 our application for $500,000 was approved but left unfunded.”

The third time proved the charm.

“By 2015, the capital campaign had been so successful we only needed to ask for $400,000. One day last June I got an e-mail from Maureen Walsh telling me our request had been both approved and funded.”

The grant was the last piece of the puzzle.

“We were confident that with the Lord’s help we’d have the building paid for in five years,” said Pierret. “Doing it in three years represents a tremendous blessing. With the community’s support and the state grant, the Society ultimately saved about $115,000 in interest.”

The biggest reward may be psychological, and the real beneficiaries will be those served by the Pasco Vincentians.

“This has taken a really big load off our shoulders,” said St. Patrick Conference president Marie Schultz. “We are now able to concentrate all our energies on serving our clients.”

“I have always said, this is God’s work and he will provide,” Pierret said. “We need to do our part, and he will do the rest. Faith, conviction, tenacity, perseverance, and a lot of prayers. It makes me think of Psalm 136: We praise God by recalling his marvelous deeds.”

(For more information about the work of the Vincentians, contact parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences, or email Spokane District Council president Paul Machtolf: Donations can be made directly to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Spokane District Council, P.O. Box 2906, Spokane, WA 99220, or to the individual parish Conferences. Additional information is available on the web:

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