The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Lake Mills Conference began in 1965 when an energetic young priest, Father Bernard Pickarts, convinced five young men from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Johnson Creek and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Lake Mills to attend a meeting in Madison to discuss the possibility of starting an SVdP council in the Lake Mills/Johnson Creek area. Rumor has it that after the meeting, Father Pickarts wouldn’t let any of the men out of the vehicle until they had agreed on a time for their first meeting as a conference.
The men met every two weeks to discuss ways to raise money to help the poor and needy in the area. With monetary help from the members of the two churches they were able to give financial assistance to people asking for help. Then Don and Mary Pat Klein stepped forward and allowed the society to rent a small store front on Water Street from them for very little money and the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Lake Mills started operating on Fridays and Saturdays. The wives of the members helped sort, tag and price clothing and household items as well as run the cash register. Fortunately, the surrounding communities were very generous with their donations of clothing, household items, and furniture and the little store grew and expanded its hours.
In 1992, the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store moved to its current location on East Lake Street. Since then the store has added on two additions because of the incredible generosity of the Lake Mills and surrounding communities. Members still meet twice a month for prayer and reflection and to discuss the applications for assistance they receive.
The success of our SVdP Society would never be possible without the hard work and dedication of over 100 volunteers. These volunteers sort, clean, tag, price and stock the shelves with the items received as donations.
Founding members Bill Heinz, Ed Hrobsky, Paul Spangler, Gene Paulus and Bob Derse are pictured below in 1966. Ed Hrobsky is still with us, but Bill, Paul, Gene and Bob and Father Pickarts have passed away, but remain in spirit.