Associate Volunteer Spotlight: Paula Rieder

What can you tell me about your present ministry?

I have been involved in StreetLight Outreach for approximately six years; I became the children’s activities coordinator shortly thereafter. This evolved into my service with the St. John the Evangelist Ministry Team and my most recent activities with the Spokes 4 Hope Bike Repair Program and the Finding Our Way Retreats for homeless men and women.

What services do you provide?

The StreetLights Outreach Block Parties are a true community celebration for people of all socioeconomic levels, races and creeds. I help organize children’s activities, providing arts and crafts and games.

The Spokes 4 Hope Program is open to community members, particularly small business members, to get involved in the wider community. We fix bikes and provide mobility for those on the streets and in our shelters so that they can access services, jobs, etc. We have fixed over 250 bikes since we started this program 18 months ago.

The Finding Our Way Retreats for the homeless, hosted by the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, Wisconsin, have provided retreats for three years, impacting approximately 60 people.

How did these ministries start for you?

The ministry that first impacted and inspired me was StreetLights Outreach. This ministry has a vision founded and grounded in the love of God and an openness to the Holy Spirit.

Through this ministry, I was inspired to develop other ministries to help our dear neighbor. The vision for Spokes 4 Hope came to me as I worked in a local parish. I met a woman named Donna Marie who had a dream and vision to help others. She had almost a dozen bikes that could help the program get started. We called forth others to help, wrote a grant to pay for the parts and equipment and secured a place to start the program.

The Finding Our Way Retreats originated in a conversation with a friend. We wanted to find a way to help the people to whom we were ministering in the shelter. We contacted St. Norbert Abbey who agreed to support this venture and underwrite the cost.

What are the challenges you have faced?

It is a challenge in getting others to see the importance and the difference they can make in providing programs like this. For Spokes 4 Hope, it has been finding a permanent home base for the program. It has been well-received by those who are served, but it is a challenge to find people who will open their doors to us. For the retreats the challenge is the follow-up, which allows a place for continued relationships for those who experienced these retreats.

Are more people needed to help?

For Spokes 4 Hope we can always use volunteers to help fix bikes. We also need resources such as a trailer to make the program mobile. Money is always needed to purchase parts and equipment. The biggest gift is that of presence—people spending time with those who are getting their bikes fixed makes such a big impact.

How do your volunteer ministries reflect our charism of loving unity?

They are Spirit-led ministries that require community and are designed to get many people involved. God never meant for us to minister by ourselves. God wants us to be together and live in unity, and these programs help us to do that. These programs are designed to truly love another person—to be in relationship with others in a mutual way. And, it is God that makes this all possible.