PHOENIX — For 25 years, St. Vincent De Paul CEO Steve Zabilski has considered the thousands of volunteers that have donated their time his "family," and the walls of its building in South Phoenix his "home."
“Hello chef, hello Larry, hello art, how are you guys? It’s good to see you guys. How are you,” Zabilski says, as he passes workers and volunteers.
“Happy anniversary,” one volunteer replied.
“I’m gonna make sure I eat here today, I’m eating with you guys,” Zabilski said.
It’s genuine and inspiring to watch the way he knows just about everyone’s names, greeting each of them like brothers and sisters, and reminding them that they are the difference makers.
“Whether it’s the kitchen, the dining room, the thrift stores, the medical clinics, the homeless shelter, the volunteer office, it’s the volunteers, the community that makes this place possible,” he said.
He means it, but they’d say the same about him.
Since 1997, he’s kept watch over the Christian-based organization, serving those in need 365 days a year.
“He’s dedicated to the mission of helping the poor and the disadvantaged, he gives so much of his time,” said board member Frank Martin Barrios. “He literally works seven days a week more than ten hours a day. It’s because of his leadership that we are where we are today.”
Much of his time is spent persuading powerful people and organizations to invest in humanity. Something he says isn’t as hard as you think.
“I think it is, they simply see what St. Vincent de Paul is doing, and many times you don’t even have to ask, you don’t even have to ask, they want to be part of it.”
The rest of his valuable time is spent with his volunteers.
“He doesn’t only ask if you can do this, he was there doing it with us and I’ve seen that throughout the years,” said Jerry Castro, a volunteer, and employee of 37 years. “I remember when he approached me in the early 2000s about opening the doors to the dining overnight during the summer to make sure folks weren’t losing their lives to the heat. He always says yes, he wants to say it.”
He’s increased the budget from $6 million a year to $50 million. Expanded and created services like the overnight shelter, the medical and dental clinic, and its urban farm programs just to name a few. All while continuing to shun the credit.
“We have a dream center that helps kids with homework, we provide the bicycles to children, we have a college scholarship program,” said Steve. “What I do at St Vincent de Paul is infinitesimal, it’s point zero, zero, zero, zero one percent of what gets done around here. The reality is, it’s the kind people who come down here and give their time, give their talents and their treasure who make this all come together.”
All of it comes full circle as they all inspire each other. But on this day, Steve is getting his flowers as those around him celebrate his decades of service.