WVPE's Kent Fulmer recently interviewed Kathy Schneider, who is the Executive Director of St. Margaret’s House in South Bend. They discussed how the organization is taking its annual 'Winter Walk' virtual this year, plus a whole host of other topics.
(You can read a full transcript of the interview below.)
- KENT: "For people who may not be familiar with it, let's go ahead and start out by getting a little bit of information about St. Margaret's House, who you are and what you do."
- KATHY: "OK. Great. St. Margaret's House is a day center for women and children who struggle with economic poverty. We help women with essential services such as breakfast, lunch, access to toiletries, showers, computers and telephones. We have programs to help women take their next best step forward. So those programs are in employment and parenting and how to deal with trauma in their lives and how to move forward. And we do this all in the context of a caring and supportive community."
- KENT: "How long has the organization been in existence?"
- KATHY: "Well, we're in our 31st year. We started in 1990."
- KENT: "Wow! You can't say that about a lot of ortanizations. You've been around for awhile. I was browsing your website and there are some really impressive statistics when we start talking about the number of people that you've been able to help over the years."
- KATHY: "Absolutely. You know, I don't know if I know the exact numbers. I know that our guest numbers are over 10,000 and we serve about 1,800 different people a year. And in 2020 we served almost 35,000 meals.
- KENT: "That's just an incredible statistic. It is. And I know that one of your big fundraisers every year is a program called the Winter Walk, correct?"
- KATHY: "That's right."
- KENT: "Now, the Winter Walk, and I’ve heard the story about this before, I think, but I would love to have you tell me a little bit about why you do this walk in the winter."
- KATHY: "Absolutely. Well, 80% of our women come to St. Margaret’s House in the winter. I mean in any weather 80% use their feet to get here. They either walk or take the bus and have to walk from the bus stops, and so we do it in the winter as well as our largest fund raiser of the year, as well as a walk of solidarity with the women who use their feet as their main form of transportation to get here. And when we first started this, and before Downtown South Bend really became strong, we would have to go out. We actually never understood how bad some of the sidewalks were, and how hard it was for people to actually walk to get here. So once we started on the Winter Walk, we would get out there and shovel and shovel, and you know now that Downtown South Bend is so strong, they really take care of that, so it’s gotten a lot better. But it was really an eye opener for us, and we walk in the winter just to walk in solidarity with our women."
- KENT: "It’s kind of, if you’ll excuse the saying, 'Walking a mile in their shoes,' right?"
- KATHY: "Yes. We say that, 'Walk a mile in her shoes.' It’s usually a one mile walk through Downtown South Bend, and we have in the past, oh I don’t know, 10 years or so averaged around 700 people to come out every 3 rd Sunday of February, and we’ve always gathered at the County-City Building, and we’ve had 700 to 1,200 people join us every year. So it really is a walk of solidarity and a great fundraiser for St. Margaret’s House."
- KENT: "The tricky thing this year is the pandemic, and like so many other things, you’ve had to make some adjustments to account for the pandemic, right?"
- KATHY: "Absolutely. This has become, instead of a one day, 1 or 2 hour experience, it has become a week-long, virtual event. We’re inviting people to walk on their own, but in solidarity and connection with us."
- KENT: "And when you say you’re inviting people to walk on their own, I’m assuming they’re collecting pledges for donations for St. Margaret’s House?"
- KATHY: "Absolutely. So this week-long event starts on February 14th and goes to the 21st . And we ask people to go register on our website and sign up. And then they’ll get a bib with their walk number to make it all official, and we’d like them to invite their friends to join them and they’d make a team. And they can garner support for their walk by sending out their link to their friends and family and ask for their support. And we ask people to follow up on social media, and then to post their walk on social media with a hashtag #SMHWINTERWALK. That way we all can see who’s walk and how they’re doing it, and I just think it could be a really fun virtual event."
- KENT: "It sounds like it’s going to be a great event. What is that website if somebody wants to go ahead and sign up to do a virtual walk to help raise funds for St. Margaret’s House?"
- KATHY: "Yes, it’s stmargaretshouse.org."