During the holiday season the temperatures start to decrease, and the needs of our community increases. Give the gift that keeps on giving and join in on #GivingTuesday by making a donation to one of the many nonprofits in our community.
Noozhawk had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa Gosdschan, Vice President of Development at St. Vincent’s, to learn more about how the nonprofit is strengthening low-income families and seniors through programs rooted in the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church.
Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?
Answer: St. Vincent’s is dedicated to strengthening low-income families and seniors through programs rooted in the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church. Faithful to the charism of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, we serve our sisters and brothers by providing affordable housing, early childhood education, and family enrichment opportunities.
Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service and whom was it started by?
A: St. Vincent’s was founded in 1858 by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. St. Vincent’s remains the oldest continuously operating social service agency in Santa Barbara.
Q: Why is your mission important to you?
A: St. Vincent’s remains committed to the values and mission of the Daughters of Charity which is to serve the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in our community. From St. Vincent’s inception as the first English speaking school and orphanage— to the present day, St. Vincent’s continues to provide innovative solutions to complex social issues.
Q: What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?
A: The best kept secret is that St. Vincent’s is home to over 600 residents.
• In 1858, the Daughters of Charity arrive from Maryland to open the first English speaking school and orphanage.
• In 1878, St. Vincent’s De La Vina building is destroyed by fire. The fire gave rise to Santa Barbara’s first volunteer fire department.
• In 1918, St. Vincent’s opened one of the first childcare centers in California. Located on De La Vina St., the Center was opened to respond to the needs of working mothers during WWI.
• In 2018, St. Vincent’s was recognized by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors as the longest operating social service agency in Santa Barbara.
Q: Can you tell us one success story from your nonprofit?
A: St. Vincent’s Family Strengthening Program transforms lives; as the only program of its kind in Santa Barbara, the program provides 27 months of wrap-around services to single, formerly homeless, mothers with young children. Within the structured program young mothers are provided access to social services, case management, parenting classes, job training and transitional housing.
One of our mother’s came into the program homeless. She was living in a car, showering with a hose and she had lost custody of her young son. “This program was my only option. If I lived here and was successful here, I could get my son back… zero pressure. I worked the program, worked really hard and did everything I needed to and I got my son back.”
Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?
A: St. Vincent’s is unique in that 600 diverse residents call our 21 acre campus home. As an organization we provide programs and services to support the unique needs of residents. St. Vincent’s Gardens provides 75 units of family housing, home to 350 residents. Villa Caridad’s 95 apartments are home to 105 active seniors who participate in a wide range of activities; including trips to the Botanical Gardens, ballroom dancing and yoga. Also located on the campus is St. Vincent’s Early Childhood Center and Family Strengthening Program. The fully accredited Early Childhood Center offers childcare and preschool to up to 98 children from six weeks to 5 years of age. The Family Strengthening Program provides a safe home to formerly homeless single mothers and their children. This 27-month life transforming program provides parenting education classes, individual counseling, and job and educational opportunities while developing independent living skills. This program inspires participants to become healthy in mind, body and spirit while instilling confidence and improving self-esteem.
Q: How has your nonprofit transformed since you first began?
A: For 160 years, St. Vincent’s has been on the forefront of recognizing and adapting to the needs of the community. Starting in 1858 as a school and orphanage to today as the largest provider of affordable housing for seniors and families on one campus.
Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?
A: St. Vincent’s holds two events; St. Vincent’s Golf Classic and St. Vincent’s Fashion Show and Luncheon.
Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?
A: St. Vincent’s is active on social media and our website sharing updates on our programs and services. St. Vincent’s remains committed to the community regularly communicating with other organizations to identify needs and developing appropriate services.
Q: Can you tell us one short-term goal and one long-term goal that your nonprofit has?
A: St. Vincent’s short term goal is to open the Fr. Virgil Cordano Center. This project is in collaboration with the Franciscan Friars at Old Mission Santa Barbara. This new center is located at 4020 Calle Real. This Center will provide additional programs and services to the Santa Barbara community. St. Vincent’s long term goal is to continue to move beyond our campus to serve our sisters and brothers in need.
Click here to make a donation to St. Vincent’s.
Santa Barbara County has issued a resolution proclaiming St. Vincent’s as the longest continuing operational social service agency in the county and recognizing Sr. Margaret Keaveney for the past seven years as president/CEO.
The proclamation was presented Aug. 28 in the Board of Supervisors room.
In 1858, two young sisters from the Daughters of Charity arrived from Maryland opening the first English-speaking school and orphanage.
In 1918, responding to the needs of the families during World War I, St. Vincent’s opened one of the first day nurseries in California. Today it offers up to 98 children quality child care through its Early Childhood Education Center.
In 1996, St. Vincent’s transitional housing opened to meet the needs of single mothers and children. St. Vincent’s has served more than 1,000 mothers and children over the past 22 years.
In 2007, St. Vincent’s opened the largest affordable housing on one campus, serving 455 residents.
In 2018, the Daughters of Charity, along with St. Vincent’s Associates, work together to assure another 160 years of service.
To learn more about St. Vincent’s, visit https://www.stvincents-sb.org/ or contact Lisa Gosdschan, vice president/development, 805-683-6381 ext.110.
— Kathryn Ferguson for St. Vincent’s.
Rosa Paredes, CPA will assume her new position as the first lay president/CEO in St. Vincent’s 160-year history of continuous service to children and families in need in Santa Barbara County.
Paredes has been at St. Vincent’s for five years, the last three serving as the COO/CFO of its multi-service campus.
Paredes is a native of Santa Barbara and a graduate of UCSB.
— Sr. Margaret Keaveney for St. Vincent’s.
Within easy eyeshot of Sister Margaret Keaveney’s desk is an old-timey photograph of children having a snack at the first St. Vincent’s in Santa Barbara, a daycare and orphanage on De la Vina Street that opened in 1858. St. Vincent’s today, sheltered behind tall trees and green grass on Calle Real near Highway 154, was once a pasture for the sheep and goats that supported the Daughters of Charity’s downtown work. As times have changed, so have their goals, and many say it is Keaveney’s long-range focus and tireless advocacy that have continued their success.
Keaveney, of course, would rather give her fellow sisters and administrators the credit, for instance, for creating classes designed to entice the seniors living in Villa Caridad’s low- and very-low-income apartments out of their familiar rooms and into a more social and stimulating class or discussion group. It’s true: The 21 acres of housing she oversees couldn’t operate without its 50 staff members. But it was with Keaveney’s firm guiding hand that the 95 senior apartments and 75 family homes were completed after more than a decade of planning, adding “great dignity for the people who are here.”
That kind of energy combines sweetly with Keaveney’s perceptive empathy in the work she’s taken on since stepping down as CEO and president earlier this year. When she noticed that changes in the young mothers program had sad ripple effects, she devised a stronger program that calmed the waters. At Villa Caridad, Keaveney saw blank walls, so she began inquiring around town of artists who might donate original artwork. The response was overwhelming.
According to Sister Margaret, the secret of St. Vincent’s is its staff, who care and follow through on the help their residents can need. Her own secret, said her staff members, is the delight she takes in simpler things, such as reading stories to the children at the Early Childhood Education Center.