Born and raised in New Orleans, Gwen Watson’s journey to St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County took some time and travel. After obtaining a Business Education degree from Louisiana State University, she worked in Louisiana teaching high school students who were interested in pursuing vocational careers.
After relocating to Northern California due to a job transfer in 1984, Gwen was looking for a way to give back to her community. In the late 1990s, St. Vincent de Paul operated a mobile homeless shelter that moved from parish to parish each night providing meals and shelter – and she knew she had to be involved. Gwen joined the shelter’s Advisory Task Force and began her second career as a volunteer tirelessly working to help others. That mobile homeless shelter would later become what is known today as the St. Vincent de Paul Hope Conference, (think a “branch” of SVdP), which provides funds for rental assistance and other forms of aid to prevent the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
“I saw a lot of poor people in New Orleans, and I learned in the Catholic schools that I attended that I am a child of God. I also learned that all children are God’s children, and my faith teaches me to live justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly,” says Gwen.
Volunteering with SVdP has been a source of deep fulfillment for Gwen. One such memory that sticks out for her was an experience with a refugee family from the Middle East with seven children. This family included a 13-year-old daughter who had to stay behind in the Middle East to care for an ill grandmother.
“Each night she would call and cry about how sad she was to be away from her family, and the family would also cry. I would visit them occasionally and was there one day when the teenager’s phone call arrived. I cried with them, and I knew that God was crying, too,” says Gwen, “At that time, the father had a job, but could barely afford the high rental costs of the Bay Area. Luckily, the SVDP HOPE Conference provided the move-in costs for a three-bedroom condo for the family to live in.”
“Gwen’s faith directs her to live a life of radical love. It has given her the strength to commit years to care for the poor through her extensive volunteer work with St. Vincent de Paul and other organizations including Shelter Inc., and the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County’s shelter program called “Winter Nights”. In Gwen’s work at St. Vincent de Paul, her hand is gently pushing us to do a little more than we thought we could do,” says Steve Krank, SVdP’s Vincentian Services Manager at St. Vincent de Paul’s Family Resource Center.
“In my opinion, SVdP is an organization that best fulfills the principles of the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church. SVdP cares for the poorest of God’s children and most vulnerable among us,” Gwen says, “The work of SVdP reminds us that it is our responsibility to help others.”
Thank you, Gwen, for all that you do!
Do you know of an outstanding volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County that should be nominated? Please fill out our downloadable Volunteer of the Month Nomination Form and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.