‘Surprise’ honor for St. Vincent de Paul

EVERETT — Its helping hand is offered away from the public eye, but St. Vincent de Paul was publicly honored before a baseball crowd at Monday’s AquaSox game.

Before game time, United Way of Snohomish County announced that this year’s winner of its Roger Bouck Award for Volunteerism in Action is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s North Sound District Council.

“The award came as a total surprise,” said Jim Kehoe, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul North Sound, which includes volunteers in Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom and Island counties. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic charitable organization, but its volunteers — about 300 of them in our region — help people of all backgrounds.

The charity’s work is largely accomplished through home visits. Working in teams, volunteers deliver food, rent vouchers, clothing and other household items and provide hundreds of Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets each year.

“Our members tend to fly under the radar. They’re very humble people who go out and visit with the poor face to face,” Kehoe said Monday before the award presentation. “We’re trying to take care of huge problems with minimal resources, and we’re pretty good at it.”

Monday was Volunteer Appreciation Night at Everett Memorial Stadium, with the local United Way providing free tickets for volunteers and their families to watch the Frogs play the Eugene Emeralds. The event has served as a thank-you to volunteers for more than a dozen years.

One of those volunteers is 89-year-old Dave Corboy, of Mill Creek, who was tapped to throw out the first pitch at Monday’s game.

Corboy founded the St. Vincent de Paul conference at his Catholic church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Bothell. “That was in 1987. I’ve been a member of St. Vincent de Paul 33 or 34 years. I joined in Portland,” he said.

The home visit is “the crux of our work,” said Corboy, who makes several home visits each week. “We have a food pantry. We will take food out to people, or they may need help with rent, utilities, clothing, whatever.”

Kehoe said this region’s St. Vincent de Paul has served about 80,000 people over the past year. The charity runs a thrift store at 6430 Broadway in Everett.

Neil Parekh, a spokesman for the local United Way, said St. Vincent de Paul is among the top agencies callers are referred to when they contact NorthSound 2-1-1. That phone line, run by Volunteers of America Western Washington, offers referrals for people seeking information or social services.

The Roger Bouck Award for Volunteerism in Action is named for a longtime volunteer with United Way of Snohomish County, Rotary International and the Bluebills, a Boeing retiree volunteer group. The Mill Creek man died in 2009.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in France in the 1800s, was named for a 15th century French priest known for service to the poor.

Kehoe said the original mission continues. He said a 1920s document found at Everett’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church listed how families were helped by St. Vincent de Paul. “Then, it was cords of firewood. Now it’s helping people with a PUD bill. It hasn’t changed too much,” Kehoe said.

“It’s a labor of love,” Corboy said. “You feel good if you can really help someone, and maybe say a prayer with them before you leave. It’s very satisfying.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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