Community Outreach Opportunities
Below are only some of the many organizations that we actively partner with to make our community stronger. Take a moment to browse through all of the different organization by clicking on the drop-down below. Each individual website is linked to the information panel so that you can reach out to these services on your own.
Knights of Columbus
The Knights support Vocations, Evangelization, Catholic Education, and Right to Life and is the largest lay Catholic family service organization. The four principles of the Order are Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.
Today, the Order is a grass roots organization where the local council develops the programs they believe will best serve the local community. The local council awards scholarships, provides breakfast fundraisers, provides aid to the St. Mary School for special needs and holds a basketball and soccer skills contest for Portage youth. They also people with special needs with money raised through the Tootsie Roll Program and cut wood for Mary House once a year.
The main funding for the local council come from the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry held on the first Friday of each month year round and every Friday during Lent.
Membership is open to any Catholic man 18 years of age or older.
For more information or to volunteer for this ministry please contact: Bob Thalacker – 608-742-3371
Christian Relief is a local community outreach organization that is made up of several other churches and organizations in the city of Portage. The goal of the Christian Relief is to help those who are in most need within our community. Each of these organizations works as a collective to ensure the stability of people from all over Portage by helping when they are facing financial hardships.
The best way to get involved in Christian Relief is by donating to the fund which helps to provide resources to people who need them most. St. Mary OTIC and HOC take up a monthly collection on every second weekend of the month. You can also send and donations to the Parish Center at 309 W. Cook St. Portage, WI 53901.
Sleep in heavenly peace
All children deserve a safe, comfortable place to lay their heads. In Idaho and across the US, too many boys and girls go without a bed—or even a pillow—to sleep on. These children end up sleeping on couches, blankets, and even floors. This can affect their happiness and their health.
That’s where Sleep in Heavenly Peace comes in. We’re a group of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families in need. Our organization has grown steadily over time, and we’re working on opening more chapters in different states to serve more people.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace had its start like many other charities, in a garage. It was Christmas time, a time of joy and happiness, a time of giving and love, but also a time of bitter, cold weather and snow storms. A project, that was started with the build of one bed for a single family developed into something a whole lot more. With wood left over from the first bunk, another idea was created. “Who else could benefit from this bunk”?
A simple post on Facebook sparked an unexpected response. What was thought would be a litter of requests from needy families, turned into a litany of local people eager to help and volunteer. The generosity of these volunteers was so surprising that it was no longer a search for one who needed a bed, but a question of how many beds we could provide. From there, the idea grew into reality. We can make a difference.
We are now a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our federal ID is 46-4346568.
So many great charities provide clothing, meals, and toys to families in need. But as wonderful as this aid is, few organizations offer suitable beds and bedding to the kids in these families.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace wants to help fill that gap. If a child needs a bed, we want to make sure they get one. No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.
To learn more about SHP, check out these pages: email@example.com For more information follow their Facebook Page.
Hope House's volunteer program is a rewarding opportunity for you to have a major impact on the lives of families and make our community a safer place for everyone. Hope House's volunteer program allows for a flexible and fulfilling experience. Whether you are interested in working directly with individuals here at the shelter or creating a fundraising event outside our facility, we welcome your desire to contribute to Hope House's mission.
If you are interested in volunteering, please call our Volunteer Coordinator at 608-356-9123 or send her an email.
Hope House offers an array of volunteer opportunities to choose from daily. These opportunities can include reception work, administrative tasks, support group assistance, and other in shelter tasks.
Coordinate a group volunteering day with your family, church group, civic group, etc. to work with Hope House to fill a need.
Hope House regularly has minor repairs and maintenance that needs to be done.
Organize a small fundraiser with friends, family, your church group, or whomever you choose and raise funds for Hope House!
Community Education Volunteerism
Hope House receives many requests each year to staff community event booths throughout our five-county service area. Volunteers trained to engage with community members at these events are much appreciated.
If you would like to learn more about Hope House of South Central Wisconsin, visit their website at https://www.hopehousescw.org/
Meals on Wheels
St. Mary Portage participates in the Meals on Wheels program, which is comprised entirely of volunteers from a number of churches within our community. The program provides a nutritious meal to those who are unable to prepare one at the present time.
As volunteers, they deliver meals, which are prepared at Tivoli, to those that have a hard time leaving their home due to injury, illness, or frailty. Not only do they deliver the meal, the volunteers provide a warm hello, smile, and a bit of conversation to those receiving the meals.
St. Mary Portage is responsible for delivering meals one week out of every six weeks (M-F). You can volunteer one day or all five days during that time. We are always looking for couples, runners, and drivers.
If you are interested in volunteering with Meals on Wheels, please contact the Parish Office at 608-742-6998.
The Thanksgiving Meal has been a major part of St. Mary OTIC community outreach for quite some time. The premise is simple: provide a meal for those who are hungry and companionship for those who are lonely.
We work together as a Parish Family to provide a Thanksgiving meal to nearly 300 people in the greater Portage area. As Christians, we follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ by helping those who need it the most.
The meal is open to anybody in the Portage area, including those who are homebound. We seek to provide our community members with a hot meal so they don't have to go hungry. In addition, it provides an opportunity for those who live alone to spend a holiday with a compassionate and caring community.
The meal is completely free to all who wish to attend, however, a good-will offering is greatly appreciated. The dinner is supported completely on the donations that we receive.
If you would like to help with the Thanksgiving Meal, please contact the Parish Office at 608-742-6998.
The Salvation Army has been serving our county for many years helping our neighbors who find themselves in emergency situations.
The Salvation Army depends solely on the generosity of individuals who are willing to volunteer their time and efforts.
To look into setting up a time slot for your family or group, please contact Kathryn at 608-617-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Touched Twice united
Touched Twice Portage- mirroring Touched Twice United Clinics, whose mission is “to meet the basic needs of our neighbors. Touched Twice –is a Christ-centered, faith based organization that strives to bring healing and hope to the community. Acting as a catalyst, mobilizing volunteers from local churches to host free clinics that strive to meet the medical, spiritual, and physical needs of the guest – all on a budget of ZERO dollars!
Currently, Touched Twice Clinics “offer a range of services- dental services, medical services, family portraits, food pantry, a hot lunch, clothing drive, counseling, chiropractic care, massages, face painting, therapy dogs, and more.”
What we would like to provide here, at Touched Twice Portage, is Medical care, in the form of: diabetes screenings, blood pressure readings, sports physicals, health education, and referrals. Chiropractic care through adjustments and manipulations. Dental care, through screenings and cleanings. Spa services: haircuts, and mini- massages. Financial counseling. Family portraits. St. Vincent De Paul, the Portage Food Pantry, Columbia County Health & Human Resources, will be present to promote the services they offer. We would also like to provide all participants and volunteers a free hot lunch.
Volunteers are recruited from the community to provide services for the guests. On the day of the clinic, we will hold a volunteer training at 9:00, prior to the opening of doors. We need volunteers from 9:00 am – 3: 00 pm, in two, 3 hour shifts. 9-12, and 12-3 .
You can get more information, or sign-up to help, by contacting Rachel at email@example.com or Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How it all began...
How it all began...
In 1997, St. Mary’s parishioner Jane Zander went to Jeannette, Haiti, with a group from the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. She came home and suggested to Nancy Hibbard that it might be something she would like to get involved in.
In 1998, Nancy made her first trip to Haiti with a medical/dental team and came home with a strong desire to learn the language and return. Soon, she began to make the trip several times a year with a variety of groups (medical, educational, youth, etc.)
In 2004, Nancy gave away nearly everything she owned and moved to Jeremie, Haiti. She lived with Canadian and Haitian Good Shepherd Sisters for three months prior to accepting a job with the Haitian Health Foundation. In 2005, she moved from Jeremie to a very remote village called Corail where she worked for the parish—painting and decorating the church, rectory and school buildings, teaching middle school English and computers, adult ed, as well as hosting groups and fund-raising to pay teachers’ salaries, build a computer school, a corn/coffee mill, and a chapel. In 2008, she moved to Grand Vincent Parish where she did similar work. The first group from SMOTIC (Fr. Jim Murphy, Dcn. Dennis Sutter, Nancy Fictum, Susan Griep) visited parishes in Corail and Grand Vincent to become acquainted with the priests and see how the money was being used.
In 2009, Nancy moved St. Marc, about an hour north of Port au Prince, to work at an all-English learning center. She was often being called to translate for medical and dental missions in areas such as Fond Jean Noel (southeast of Port au Prince) so it was much more convenient to meet up with groups from this more central location. (This was where Nancy was at the time of the earthquake.)
After the earthquake in 2010, Nancy worked at a guest house in Port au Prince where they had a soccer field with 2000+ people living in tents. It was decided, after several months, to open a grade school on the field. Nancy worked as directress of the school, while continuing to help run the guest house and gift shop. She also was helping out at a rural school in the mountainous area high about Ti Goave, called Durissy.
In 2011, Fr. Jim Murphy, Dcn. Dennis Sutter, Nancy Fictum, Susan Griep, Kaitlin Jones (Susan’s niece), Greg Bierne and his daughter, Mallory Bierne worked with the Haitians for a week in the Fond Jean Noel clinic and school—seeing patients, distributing medications, painting, decorating and building desks for the school.
In 2012, Nancy accepted a job with an international organization to teach computer classes in Jeremie. She was visited in 2014 by Dcn. Dennis Sutter, Nancy Fictum, Kathy Lemi, and Monica Miller. The ladies visited schools and the elderly, painted, and helped a group of young Haitian women with creative ideas for craft items and jewelry to be sold both in Haiti and the US. Dennis helped with wiring and plumbing a school and woodworking shop.
In 2015, Nancy returned to the US but continues to work for several projects in Port au Prince and the Jeremie area—the hot lunch program for the elderly and disabled street people, educating a few students, and building with recycled plastic bottles. A group traveled to Haiti in November 2017—Dcn. Dennis Sutter, Lynn Barbeau, Nancy Larson, Stewart Taylor and Nancy Hibbard. The purpose of the group was to work side-by-side with two Haitian building teams to build frames, pour slabs, and organize the laying of cement block corners and columns in order to build two homes, using recycled plastic bottles filled with sand as cavity fillers between two sides of chicken wire and then covered with plaster stucco. It was very well received and the project continues to grow.
Population: Nearly 10.5 million in a country 1/5 the size of Wisconsin
Major languages: Creole and French
Major religion: Christianity, about 50% Catholic and 40% Protestant and 10% Other
Life expectancy: 61 (men) and 64 (women)
Haiti shares the Atlantic Ocean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Hispaniola, or “Little Spain,” plays an important role in world history because it was here that Christopher Columbus landed in 1492.
Hispaniola’s climate is benign and challenging at the same time. Warm breezes and sandy beaches contrast with the fact that the island is in a frequently traveled hurricane path as well as on several earthquake fault lines. The highest point in Haiti is the Pic La Selle, measuring 8,773 feet, much taller than the highest mountains in the eastern United States.
Haiti became the world’s first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century.
But independence came at a crippling cost. Chronic instability, dictatorships and natural disasters in recent decades have left it as the poorest nation in the Americas. Then, an earthquake in 2010 killed nearly 300,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure and the economy.
Haiti may sound like a faraway location, but the distance between Madison and the capital, Port-au-Prince, is just 1,962 miles. This makes it an ideal place to help out, especially during cold Wisconsin winters.
The first mission trip to Haiti was in February 2009. Former parishioner, now living in Haiti, Nancy Hibbard welcomed the small group, including Fr. Jim Murphy, Sue Griep, Nancy Fictum, Kaitlyn Jones and Deacon Dennis Sutter. They toured the southwestern portion of the island, including Jérémie, Corail and Grand Vincent. The men worked in the St. Martin de Tours rectory in Grand Vincent, primarily on the electrical system. The women were involved in education in the area where Nancy was working.
One year after the earthquake, in 2011, the second mission group from St. Mary (Dan and Mallory Beirne, Nancy Fictum, Sue Griep, Fr. Jim and Deacon Dennis) visited Fond Jean Noel in the southern part of Haiti. Nancy found work for the group, translated, and introduced them to many friends. Members of the group helped in the medical clinic distributing over-the-counter medicines donated by Service Drug, joined with the older school children in painting the school, built school desks and did some minor wiring in the clinic.
In January of 2014, the third mission group from St. Mary (Nancy Fictum, Kathy Lemi, Monica Miller, and Deacon Dennis) returned to Jérémie in order to stay and work with Nancy. The women made jewelry, painted a house and made new friends in the city. Deacon Dennis installed plumbing and wired a woodworking shop that employs a good number of individuals, some handicapped, as well as youth that are eager to learn a trade. Cabinet-making, such as this, enables the young to be better prepared to enter the workforce once they finish their education.
In addition to encouraging parishioners to get involved in the Haiti missions, St. Mary has funded all or part of many projects, dating back to 2004: construction of coffee and corn mills, building chapels and schools, paying teachers’ salaries, sending much-needed school, medical and dental supplies as well as soaps and shampoos, building a dormitory for school staff and visitors, helping to finance the tent-city and associated school in Port au Prince after the quake, micro-financing for individuals starting jobs, buying and transporting computers, purchasing solar panels for several locations, a motorcycle for the priest, and providing help for many schools. St Mary has sent musical instruments, educational materials, clothing, shoes, and many other items.
St. Mary was planning its 4th trip to Haiti for January 2017—primarily an “Exposure Trip” to gain new vision. Several individuals had committed to the trip and we were in the process of choosing a date and buying tickets when Hurricane Matthew devastated Jérémie and all of the surrounding cities and villages.
the humanitarian need
A Country Surviving Devastation
Several individuals from St. Mary’s had planned to go to Haiti in the fall of 2016; tragically, a Category 5, 145-mph hurricane hit Jeremie and the surrounding area on October 4.
Hunger was a big problem before the storm but for months afterwards, it consumed everyone. The desperation was ubiquitous and extreme. Food distribution was very dangerous and crowd control extremely difficult. For this reason, we decided to cancel our fall trip. No one was able to reach the high mountain villages for weeks because even the goat and mule trails were not passable. Many elderly, especially women, died of exposure.
The Grand'Anse (the area where Jeremie is located) bore the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, becoming isolated after communications networks were cut. This worried many friends and families abroad as there was no way to communicate. Throughout this department alone, the hurricane destroyed or severely damaged 86,223 houses, which displaced about 99,400 families. Almost every tree in Grand'Anse was knocked down, while nearly all rivers were flooded. Nearly all of the crops, fruit trees, vegetables and coffee in the department were destroyed, and about half of all livestock were killed. Even the mangroves were completely lost or severely damaged which is where most of the fishing was done.
In Jeremie, the capital of the department, the strong winds ripped off nearly every roof, damaging 13,753 buildings. The hurricane decimated every building not made of concrete, including 90% of houses, and 80% of all structures. Floods in Jérémie inundated an orphanage, forcing 123 children to be evacuated, and 141 roads were damaged. Poorly-built houses in the country had thatched or tin roofs which blew away quickly and caused many deaths and severe injuries. One Haitian described it as a storm of razor blades with tin roofs slicing through the air. Most all of the rectories, churches and schools lost their doors, windows and roofs as well as all of their vital records.
Hurricane Matthew was the third strongest storm to ever ravage the country, so much so that there was no way to even count the number of dead.
In the storm's aftermath, humanitarian agencies had about 400 operations throughout Haiti to provide relief to storm victims. St. Mary’s sent thousands of dollars to purchase sheet metal to re-roof homes, clean water, rice, and other basic cooking supplies.
Our missionary work
Building Homes and Restoring Lives 2017
Due to the tremendous amount of trash and little money and high unemployment, it was proposed to the Haitian people that they try to build a wall between the school and church made from recycled plastic bottles which are filled with sand, i.e., “eco-bricks”. The idea was well received and two walls were constructed in the most basic way—lying bottles horizontal in rows, held together with mortar, one on top of the other. Adults and children took part in collecting and constructing.
Next, it was decided to move forward with a small 10’x 10’ building which was built with a strong foundation, concrete columns and beams reinforced with rebar. The bottles act as filler (insulation) in the walls and then the outside was covered with cement stucco.
The people liked the idea but did not like seeing the bottles inside. It was not financially feasible, though, to stucco both sides of the wall. So we began to see if this idea was being used in other areas of the world.
In South America, similar but much larger buildings are being built but using chicken wire to hold and stabilize the bottles.
A lot of planning went into planning the construction of 12’ x 24’ buildings. In October 2017, five members of our church and community assisted in the building effort along with dozens of Haitians.
The first building is nearly finished and the second one has begun.
Bottle buildings are an efficient and environmentally-conscious way to build. Reusing plastic waste cleans the community and encourages the the community to work together to collect the thousands of bottles necessary to build. Teachers can use this effort to talk to their students about reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling in an effort to motivate them to turn trash into something useful.
Overall, we felt the pilot project to be successful, but it has many areas where it can be perfected.
Nancy retured from two weeks in Puerto Rico where she participated in building unique-style houses. Earthsip is a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and upcycled materials such as earth-packed tires, liquor bottles, beer cans, cardboard, and wood pallets, pinoeered by architect Michael Reynolds. An Earthship addresses six principles or human needs:
How to help
Primarily, we need skilled laborers (such as masons and brick layers) to join the next group in order to teach the Haitians how to build correctly in order to ensure sound construction.
We do not want the magic to end with the completion of the first building. Come and see! Share your skills and talents with others who are eager and willing to learn.
The need is still great. Tax-deductible donations to be used for building with recycled materials, education or the feeding program for elderly and mentally ill in Haiti should be made out to “Positively Portage” (a Wisconsin charitable organization) and mailed to 121 W. Cook St., Portage WI 53901. Please note “Haiti Relief” on the check.
River Haven shelter
River Haven Homeless Shelter was founded on the idea that housing should be available to those who are in need. The shelter offers up to 30 days of free housing to people who find that they have nowhere else to go. River Haven welcomes families with children and individual women and hosts a second location for individual men.
While in residence, people will be informed about the various social programs that exist within our community including:
In addition, there is a case manager available 24 hours every day and 7 days a week. Our goal is to help people transition into our community while providing them the necessary foundation on which to build their lives.
If you would like to donate to River Haven Shelter or volunteer, please contact 608-742-7687.
St. Vincent de paul
The Mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul“A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”
Who We Are
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.
As a reflection of the whole family of God, members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background, age group, and economic level. Vincentians are united in an international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.
Organized locally, Vincentians witness God's love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served because, in them, Vincentians see the face of Christ.
How does the Society differ from other charities?
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is composed of women and men who seek their personal holiness through works of charity. In this essential way, the Society differs from charitable associations or agencies whose principal objective is not the spiritual advancement of their members but the doing of good for someone else.
President-General Adolpe Baudon, in his Circular Letter of January 1, 1877, writes:
"It is laid down in our Rule, and it has been always understood among us, that in uniting to serve our masters the poor, as St. Vincent de Paul expresses it, our object is not only to relieve material misery, a very laudable purpose in itself, but to aspire, especially, through the practice of that most sublime of virtues "charity" to render ourselves better and more fervent Christians, and to make our poor enter on the same path, if we have the happiness of succeeding."
In his Circular Letter of December 12, 1915, Vicomte Hendecourt, President-General writes:
"The Society has two aims: to do a great deal of spiritual good to its members through the exercise of charity, and to do a little spiritual and temporal good to a few poor families in the name of Jesus Christ. If it did not continually seek to combine these two aims, it would lose its raison d'etre. If it were to seek only the holiness of its members through pious exercises, there is no lack of Confraternities and Third Orders to meet that need. If on the other hand, it were to seek only the relief of the temporal miseries of the poor, it would only add one more to the list of public and private institutions founded for that purpose."
The Mission Statement is clear: Vincentian ministry is a means for acquiring holiness. The ministry of a Vincentian to those and with those who stand in need is the powerful means that affects holiness of life for the individual Vincentian. Vatican II states that the principal means of holiness for bishops and priests is their ministry. This applies to the laity also, because, in attending to the needy and suffering, a Vincentian is ministering to Jesus Christ himself.
If you are interested in volunteering or donating, please contact 608-742-5513.
Habitat for humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in approximately 70 countries. Habitat’s vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Habitat works toward our vision by building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.
To find our more about Habitat for Humanity, you can visit their website at https://www.habitat.org/about.
Summer Meal Program
Summer vacation is a reward for a year of hard work in the classroom. However, for some who rely on free and reduced-price school meals based on low family income, the summer months can be difficult. In Portage, 1 in 3 school age children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. When school is out, these kids no longer have access to school meals and their families’ budgets are often stretched. Studies show that kids are at a higher risk for hunger during the summer months.
The Portage Free Summer Lunch Program helps kids who rely on free and reduced-price school meals continue receiving healthy food during the summer. The Portage Free Summer Lunch Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and implemented by local partners.
The Portage Free Summer Lunch Program provides an important source of nutritious food for Portage’s youth during the critical summer months. The availability of free meals is an incentive for children to participate in summer enrichment programs, which means that children are not only well-fed, but in a safe environment engaged in educational and recreational activities that can help them return to school ready to learn.
Our goal is to have no child go hungry. Therefore, in the past two summers we have served over 5,000 meals each summer.
What is it? (for kids & teens age 18 and under)
LOCATIONS & TIMES
Daily beginning June 8- lunch served all summer Monday through Friday except July 6th.
* July 6th No lunch served at any sites- an extra lunch will be provided on July 3rd.
For more information contact:
Pastor Dave Hankins, Portage Presbyterian Church – 608.742.6006
Caitlin Richardson, UW-Extension Columbia County – 608.742.9680