Leadership

Women’s History Month Series – Former SVdP National Council President, Sheila Gilbert

Women’s History Month Series – Former SVdP National Council President, Sheila Gilbert 163 180 SVDP USA

In 2011, the National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul made history when Vincentians elected the first woman to serve as their National President. Her name is Sheila Gilbert, and she served in the role from 2011 – 2017.

Prior to being elected president, Gilbert served as the National Secretary on the National Board of Directors, under President Joe Flannigan, and as a committee chair under President Gene Smith.

Volunteerism

Volunteerism courses through her veins. In addition to her work with the Society, Gilbert has also volunteered as a Girl Scout Leader, PTO President, CCD Instructor, and Adult Faith Formation Coordinator at her home parish.

“It seems like when I see something that needs doing, and I think I can do it, I volunteer,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert first became involved with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul when a Conference was formed at her parish. She also volunteered at the parish distribution center.

Path to Leadership

Her path to leadership within the Society began when she served as the President of the Indianapolis North District Council, and the Archdiocesan Council of Indianapolis. She was the Mideast Region Vice President, and Chair of the National Formation Committee.

While also serving in her various leadership roles within the Society, Gilbert also served on the Board for the Vincentian Family Committee and completed two terms representing the Society on the Ladies of Charity‘s National Board. During her time as SVdP President, she was a “participating observer” on the National Catholic Charities Board.

Gilbert’s volunteer work prior to and during her time as the first female SVdP National President was not without its challenges. “As a woman working for the Catholic Church in a local parish, I often felt a bit ‘second class,’ and some gentlemen in the Society had a tendency to pat me on the head, rather than take me seriously, especially early on.”

Although she was heartened by the encouragement she received when it came to her campaign for President and once she took the office, Gilbert notes that the challenges she faced were like those of any person coming into office, not specifically because she was a woman.

“I never even thought about them as having to do with being female,” Gilbert said.

Advice for Others

Though her term ended in 2017, Gilbert remains very passionate about the Society and about women’s involvement.

“[My] advice: Follow the guidance your heart receives from the Holy Spirit. Talk with people you respect. Take one step forward at a time and don’t be afraid to try,” said Gilbert. “No one ever has all the skills and abilities for any leadership position, but the Holy Spirit knows how to fill in the gaps. Believe that you can rely on God and other Vincentians.

“I became National President because others believed in me more than I believed in myself. Every Vincentian can look around and find someone in whom they see potential and provide the support and encouragement that makes their leadership possible and successful.”

When asked about her hopes for females within the Society as time goes on, she said, “I only hope I won’t hold the title of the ONLY female president.”

 

03-25-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders

03-25-2021 Letter From Our Servant Leaders 410 382 SVDP USA

I am often asked if the National Council has grants available for local Vincentian use. The frequency of these requests has increased over the past year, as Conferences and Councils have endeavored to do more for people in need because of the pandemic and its consequences.

First, some perspective. As opposed to many “national” nonprofits, the bulk of the total worth of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul lies within its local Conferences, which is a good thing! As solidarity (or dues, if you prefer) rolls from Conference to District/Diocesan Councils and eventually to help fund the National and International Council, only a maximum of six-tenths of one percent of all Society revenues gets to the national office. By inference this means that 99.94 percent of the total stays local! This is preferred because our services are delivered very locally; therefore, as much of the resources to do so should stay there too.

However, as a national organization we look for way to leverage our collective strength. Sometimes this is in buying power, such as to get organizational discounts you can use to buy store supplies, background checks, hotel nights, and the other resources you use to serve our neighbors. The processes are based on total, expected national volumes. We also look at national program grants to develop new programs, training tools, communications, and staff management to help you learn and then operate a standardized program without your needing to reinvent the wheel each time.

In terms of actual grants, National Council has been blessed to work with some national partners – foundations and even individual donors – who want to make a national impact through our distribution of funds to our member Councils and Conferences. Examples include the recent Urban Farming grants, the Back2Work and IMMERSION programs, and of course the Friends of the Poor grants.

The Friends of the Poor (FOP) grants utilize dollars raised nationally to provide grants to Society Conferences for emergency needs of our friends and neighbors. A smaller but growing portion of the grants are used for larger Systemic Change programs operated by Councils as well as Conferences. These grants are limited to what we can raise each year and are distributed in four regional cycles annually plus a separate application period for Systemic Change.

A good deal of the FOP funds come from other Society groups! Some Councils and Conferences are blessed with more funds than they need today, or simply see the greater needs elsewhere, so they help us redistribute these blessings nationally. Other funds come from individuals who support the Society in other ways throughout the year. We raise several hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, but this is less than one-third of the funds requested through this grant program.

Over the next two weeks, we will conduct an email campaign specifically for the Friends of the Poor program. You, or someone in your Conference, may receive an email from us asking for your support. I ask you to discern on this request, consider what you have and what you need locally, and see if you can help our brother and sister members somewhere else in our country through the Friends of the Poor process. Vincentian volunteers decide how to distribute these $5,000 grants (sometimes more for Systemic Change) by region.

If you don’t receive such an email, of course you can still participate! Simply send funds to the National Council marked Friends of the Poor. You can further specify how much you want to go toward emergency needs and how much to Systemic Change grants. Thank you!

We will also send emails to past National Council contributors. Everyone will be directed to a unique online giving page designed for the FOP program. This helps assure that the funds will go exactly where designated.

This year, we started the awards process with what we have on hand but we will have an additional “catch-up” round for added grants in our fourth quarter. Watch for details on this in future e-Gazette issues and blog posts.

In this pandemic, and hopefully soon post-pandemic year, we know that many of our neighbors will come to us asking for more support with rent, food and other basic needs. By all of us working together as Vincentians who care about the poor everywhere, we can leverage our strength to get Friends of the Poor grants to the neediest areas through our fellow Conferences. Thanks for your consideration!

Yours in Christ,
Dave Barringer
CEO

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