St. Vincent de Paul was known for his countless charitable works, but the spiritual hallmarks of this Catholic priest were his attention to the poor and unwavering humility.
Though Steve Zabilski never knew the renowned saint, he embodies the philosophy of serving those in need. And appropriately, he is well-situated to live out those precepts of charity as executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Phoenix, where he oversees the day-to-day operation of the organization’s
250 employees and thousands of volunteers throughout Arizona.
“We are a place that provides opportunities for others to be of service and this provides real meaning in our lives; a sense of purpose, a peace and joy that comes from having a reason for being that which is greater than ourselves,” professed Zabilski.
His pathway to this non-profit agency was somewhat serendipitous as he simply answered a classified ad after feeling that it was time for a career change.
“I had been working as an accountant but felt like it was time to do something different,” he said, “and so I answered an ad in the Catholic Sun newspaper. I actually never expected to get a call back.”
Though he had no real social service experience, Zabilski was hired for his current role and has watched over the Christian organization for the past 22 years.
“This is a place that centers things for people,” Zabilski said. “You come in to share your time and talents and leave as a different person. We like to say that SVDP is a place where those seeking assistance, and those who offer support, meet on the common ground of God’s love.”
A father of three, Steve and his wife, Denise, raised their family in Arcadia and love all that it has to offer. “I can walk to Safeway for groceries and see our neighbors along the way and you can’t do that in very many neighborhoods,” he said.
When he isn’t walking, he is running – he has numerous marathon and half-marathon races to his credit.
Steve is also active in the community, serving as a director of the Virginia Piper Charitable Trust. “I so enjoy that role because for once I am giving away money instead of asking for it,” he said with a smile.
With Father’s Day this month, Steve is reflective of all the influence that his father had on him. “He taught me the virtues of hard work, of being passionate about what you do, spending time with family and most importantly, humility.”
Anyone who knows Steve even a little bit will tell you that he is the embodiment of those characteristics.
“Steve has so many outstanding qualities and he’s universally liked and respected by all who know him,” said his long-time friend, Jimmy Walker. “He is someone, quite frankly, who we all aspire to emulate.”