Highlighting a Hero: MSV Staff on the Front Lines
Connecting Communities | May 2020
Meet Paul Matsushima.
As community needs shift during the current crisis, dedicated leaders are stepping up in surprising ways. Paul Matsushima of Marillac St. Vincent Family Services (MSV) is one such individual whose steadfast approach to service has proven essential for the continued success of the organization’s East Garfield Park food pantry.
Since 2019, Paul has worked as the Outreach Program Supervisor for MSV’s East Garfield Park location, Marillac Social Center. He oversees the food pantry, utility assistance applications, and digital literacy initiatives for the center, building well-being for hundreds of individuals each week.
“To Paul, our food pantry isn't merely about providing sustenance; it's about preserving the dignity and safety of our community members. It's about somehow pushing against the general sense of isolation, helplessness, and hopelessness. The staff, the volunteers, and our clients are following his example.”, explains Marillac Social Center’s Digital Literacy Coordinator, Holly Yacoumakis.
It is no surprise to those around him that Paul has not only continued to show up for his community during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that he has risen to meet new challenges with unwavering compassion.
Kathy Slover, Marillac St. Vincent’s Director of Community Outreach Services explains, “When I asked him to limit his hours and exposure, Paul asked to add Saturdays to his work schedule to ensure we are ready for Monday distribution at the food pantry. His daily actions show that Paul has the highest possible respect for, and dedication to, those we serve on the west side of Chicago.”
Paul very quickly adapted the Center’s usual client-choice model to better ensure food security long before Governor Pritzker announced the Stay at Home Order in Illinois. At this time, the food pantry now distributes pre-boxed goods and thanks to Paul’s foresight, they are still allowing space for clients to sort through items if needed.
Paul’s commitment to the well-being of those he serves is only further exemplified by his focus on safety for both clients and other employees. He and his staff redesigned the entire work flow of the food pantry. It was Paul, himself, who wielded the tape measure while plotting six foot distances across the entire facility.
Dedicated and diligent, Paul has been proving himself a hero for the last two years at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services. He was hired in 2018 as the Marillac Social Center Food Pantry Coordinator and within his first year he increased distribution from one hundred thousand pounds of food to seven hundred eighty-five thousand pounds of food. He set and reached lofty goals of adding new donation partners and was able to increase access to fresh produce for his clients.
This intimate understanding of how the food pantry works has been a major part of his success as the current Outreach Program Manager at Marillac Social Center. However, according to Kathleen Callahan, the Marillac Food Pantry Supervisor, it is his dedication that sets him apart as a leader, “Dedication doesn't seem to be a strong enough word to describe how he approaches the work he does. He is tireless in advocating for the needs of others.”
The Chicago community is lucky to have a hero like Paul whose leadership skills and unwavering commitment to community drive him to show up every day regardless of circumstance.