Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 26, 2005
God's steward drives a white van
St. Vincent de Paul president's volunteer work deepens his faith
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
After Bob Prestash sold his southside business a few years ago, he set his sights on helping the needy in Edmonton and area.
"When I first got involved, it was a real eye opener to see the amount of need that is out there," said Prestash, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul local council.
"My reaction was that the society has been around for more than 175 years and it has crossed all the bridges. It has dealt with all the issues. I liked that. It's a good answer to the needs of responding to the Gospel calling to serve those less fortunate."
A team effort
A former gun shop and shooting range owner, Prestash, 41, cannot emphasize enough how the entire team of some 300 Vincentians works together to distribute assistance to the poor in Edmonton and area.
But he is hesitant to talk about himself. He is the last person who will say the society has flourished in Edmonton under his stewardship.
Prestash joined the society four years ago after reading a notice in his church bulletin calling for able-bodied men with trucks. It was a city-wide appeal.
"The St. Agnes-St. Anthony-St. Thomas More Parish triad already had an established way to deliver furniture with a number of volunteers. I looked for our parish contact who suggested I go to the central distribution outlet to see if any other conferences could make more use of me and my truck. There was a lot for me to do."
Prestash thought the society might use a person with the time and energy to take on the position of overseeing operations in Edmonton and area to help it get established.
"The Edmonton council is the coordinating body that each of the parish-based conferences of the society works with for joint projects," Prestash said.
The local council has grown with Prestash at the helm from assisting about 600 people some four years ago to the current base of 4,000.
His mantel is covered with prayer cards from Vincentians across Canada from when he had a recent cancer scare. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He has now graduated to six-month check-ups.
"If you can have a good cancer experience, that was it. It was very treatable and it was caught early," he said. "I had a feeling that everything would be okay.
"I have found that working in the society has been the most valuable thing I have done to strengthen my faith. It has been tremendously enriching," he said.
"I have great admiration for Bob because he keeps going," said Lynn L'Heureux, president of the western Canadian regional council. "He has a great love and he shows it. He's the walking Gospel, not only for the people he is serving, but for his Vincentian family."
Dan Brister had never heard of the society before Prestash visited his parish appealing for volunteers. Brister signed up on the spot and became a Vincentian in April 2004. He is now president of the St. John Bosco conference that also includes volunteers from St. Clare and St. Dominic Savio parishes.
Before joining the society, Brister felt something was missing in his life. He had a sense he should be doing more, contributing. Those feelings disappeared when he became a Vincentian.
"Working with the society is satisfying and challenging. It is food for the soul. It is extremely fulfilling working with clients and other Vincentians," Brister said.
"Bob is the force behind the society in Edmonton. He keeps things going and everyone moving forward in a particular direction," Brister said.
"He is well spoken, determined and very dedicated to the society."
His work with St. Vincent de Paul has given Prestash a better appreciation for what the Church has been telling him all his life.
"Now when I sit in Mass and listen to the homilies, it makes a lot more sense. I understand what they mean," he said. "It has been a terrific opportunity to work with these caring and concerned individuals who want to go out and be good Christians. Their level of dedication is really inspiring."