WATERLOO — Pat Russo is out after 38 years leading the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The Waterloo District Council of the Catholic charitable organization has eliminated the executive directorship as it works to right its financial ship and repay a large federal tax debt.
Joe Sobczyk, St. Vincent de Paul council president, said Russo, who had served as the executive director since 1980, will not be replaced. His duties are being divided among council leadership and volunteers.
“We appreciate Pat Russo’s many years of dedicated service as executive director,” Sobczyk said. “During this transition, members of the Society carry on serving those in need in the community.
“As we go through this time of transition, we ask for continued support and contributions from the community,” he added.
Russo declined initial comment when reached Thursday but said he may have a statement in the future.
The leadership shake-up comes after the Internal Revenue Service filed $67,078 in federal tax liens against the nonprofit agency for failing to remit federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from employee paychecks from September 2015 through March 2018.
St. Vincent de Paul’s national organization had put the Waterloo council on a 90-day suspension last fall for failing to have the proper leadership structure in place, Sobczyk said.
New board members were appointed and three temporary board members with business and legal experience were brought on to help restructure the organization.
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“We’ve been fully reinstated with our national organization,” Sobczyk said. “We’re going to move forward with our missions.”
St. Vincent de Paul operates a thrift store at 320 Broadway St. and a warehouse at 522 Bratnober St. It also provides assistance to the needy through donations. A second thrift store on Main Street in Cedar Falls closed in February when the building it rented was sold and the lease was not renewed.
The local organization has gone from 17 to seven employees. It will attempt to sell the warehouse to repay the IRS debt, which is currently being retired on a monthly payment plan.
Sobczyk said the current plan is to stabilize the St. Vincent de Paul operation at the single Broadway thrift store. Long term, the hope is to start a capital campaign to raise money for a new combined thrift store and warehouse operation.
“We’ve got a great past story, and we’ve got a great future story,” Sobczyk said. “We continue to do a lot of great work in the community.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international organization in the Catholic Church which has local councils that provide help to the poor and needy. Volunteers have been providing assistance since 1950 in the Waterloo area, including rent and utility aid, food, clothing, furniture and other household necessities.
During the past year, the Waterloo council provided more than $120,000 in emergency financial aid to help families avoid eviction from their homes, having their utilities disconnected or to choose between going without food or critical medications.
The council distributed more than $130,000 in clothing, furniture and other household necessities to people in need locally. It also distributed over 100,000 food items.