Disaster Relief

A Christmas Blessing for Disaster Survivors

A Christmas Blessing for Disaster Survivors 2000 1045 SVDP USA

In Florida recently, St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation and local Vincentians worked together to bring a Christmas blessing for a family who really needed one.

Already facing a series of unforeseen challenges when Hurricane Idalia struck, an undocumented family was hit hard. And when a FEMA check was written to their infant child, the prospect of a homeless Christmas became a harsh reality.

Using funds from a Rapid Response Grant given to the Gainesville District Council, DSC and Vincentians sprung into action, quickly providing a 7-day hotel stay that ensured the family had immediate shelter and would not spend Christmas on the streets. With short-term housing secured, the team was able to get the family’s FEMA check into a credit union, giving them essential resources for survival. We then helped them get into a FEMA-provided trailer, providing a home base for the family as they rebuild their lives.

Thanks to your generosity and the collaborative efforts of SVdP, DSC, and FEMA, we were able to restore stability and hope for this family and so many others like them. Your support makes stories like these possible.

Thank you for being the heart and soul of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Together, we are creating a world where compassion reigns, and hope flourishes for disaster-impacted survivors.

With gratitude,
Elizabeth Disco-Shearer
CEO, Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP-USA

Disaster Services Offers Aid to Northern California Fire Victims

Disaster Services Offers Aid to Northern California Fire Victims 938 943 SVDP USA

When massive wildfires hit Northern California without warning, entire towns were destroyed, thousands were left homeless, and 16 people were killed. But thanks to your generosity, the St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation was there to help the Sacramento Diocesan Council respond and rebuild.

Survivors were living in RVs, leaving them vulnerable to the elements, while waiting for delayed state assistance to help them rebuild. Thanks to help from donors like you, DSC and the National Council were able to:

  • Assist 15 Households: The grant provided essential materials and supplies for survival and recovery.
  • Weatherize RVs: By equipping 10 RVs with roof coatings and caulking materials, the project protected families against the elements.
  • Solarize: Solar panels provided heating and cooling needs for a household living in an RV.
  • Provide Hot Water and AC: Families received hot water heaters and window AC units, restoring essential comforts.
  • Control Erosion: Supplies including paint rollers, caulking guns, gloves, fans, flashlights, batteries, and jack pads, were distributed to address pressing safety concerns.
  • Build Community: A poignant remembrance event connected 150 survivors with vital community resources and distributed 400 trees for reforestation and erosion control, fostering a sense of unity and renewal.

But the impact didn’t stop there. The second half of the grant helped volunteers complete vital solar repairs, bring damaged RVs up to safety standards, and distribute gravel, as well as providing fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke detectors.

Program Manager Simona Gallegos can’t thank donors enough. “Without this funding, these wildfire survivors would have remained stuck in a never-ending loop of destruction. This funding has equipped them to better deal with extreme weather situations and made them more sustainable in their recovery.”

To donate to the Annual Disaster Campaign, visit www.svdpusa.org/disaster

Disaster Services Update — Empowering Hope: Rebuilding Lives Beyond Hurricane Ida’s Wake

Disaster Services Update — Empowering Hope: Rebuilding Lives Beyond Hurricane Ida’s Wake 615 218 SVDP USA

When Hurricane Ida slammed the East Coast in 2021, Passaic County, New Jersey bore the brunt of the storm.

In the wake of devastation, the heart of Passaic County was witness to both the impact of destruction and the incredible power of community coming together.

This is a story of resilience, strength, and the transformative impact of generosity – a story that speaks to the mission of Disaster Services Corporation, a subsidiary of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Imagine a single parent courageously navigating life with four precious children. When Hurricane Ida’s fury struck, their world was turned upside down. The family was forced to leave their home and  seek refuge in a shelter in nearby Bergen County. But amidst the chaos, their determination and love for each other remained unshaken.

In collaboration with The Salvation Army and Compass 82, DSC was able to give this family more than $13,000 to help them find permanent housing, stability, and hope.

The family’s resilience and hope captured the attention of Disaster Services Corporation. And thanks to compassionate donors like you, a chain reaction of support helped give this family a path to recovery.

When you donate to Disaster Services Corporation, you become an integral part of stories like this. You help us restore hope and rebuild lives. Together, we help families overcome the challenges that disasters can bring.

Thanks to your support, stories of disaster recovery can become stories of resilience and hope. Together, we can give families the strength to rebuild, the courage to overcome, and the hope to thrive.

For more information about DSC please visit: www.svdpdisaster.org.

Conference Assists Survivors of Recent Tornado

Conference Assists Survivors of Recent Tornado 1568 882 SVDP USA

Written by: Mike Smith
Vice President, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Conference
Annunciation Catholic Church, Columbus, MS

The following is a heartwarming update regarding one Conference’s ongoing efforts to support those affected by the recent tornado in Amory, Mississippi.

In a recent meeting, our dedicated team, led by Conference Treasurer Rosemary Payne and myself, had the privilege of sitting down with Fr. Joseph, the Pastor of St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Amory, along with around ten other parishioners and community members. The primary objective of this meeting was twofold: to review the progress made in utilizing the funds generously provided to St. Helen’s by SVdP (Society of St. Vincent de Paul), and to discuss the future assistance that might be required.

Thanks to the unwavering support from SVdP, approximately $18,100 has been provided to St. Helen’s so far, enabling them to offer much-needed assistance to the affected individuals and families in the community. Additionally, 750 hygiene kits were sent to Life Springs Ministry, making a significant impact on the lives of those who received them.

During our meeting, we learned that around 75-100 families are still displaced, currently residing in hotel rooms located over 30 miles away from Amory. The lack of available apartments or permanent housing options in the area has posed significant challenges to their recovery. Fortunately, FEMA plans to provide temporary trailers to accommodate some of the displaced individuals, and Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse is generously donating several permanent trailers to the community. 

With the new school year just around the corner, we discussed the various needs of the affected families, including school clothes, supplies, linens, furniture, and more. We aim to provide comprehensive support to help them rebuild their lives and regain a sense of normalcy.

As we look ahead, our hearts are filled with hope and determination to continue supporting the resilient community of Amory. We are now exploring the possibility of requesting additional funding from SVdP Disaster Services to further bolster our assistance efforts. Your continued support and generosity play a crucial role in making these endeavors possible.

If you are interested in contributing or getting involved, please reach out to us. Together, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of those who have endured the devastating effects of the tornado.

Let us stand united in compassion and solidarity, showing the true spirit of community and support.

DSC Collaborates to Better Assist Disaster Survivors

DSC Collaborates to Better Assist Disaster Survivors 946 860 SVDP USA

SVdP Disaster Services Corporation CEO, Elizabeth Disco-Shearer recently participated in a meeting with representatives from the Disaster Response Leadership Team with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Organization. The focus of the meeting was “Orientation and Advocacy for Disaster Survivors.” This is a cause that is close to the hearts of both organizations. Throughout the meeting, various strategies were discuss to strengthen disaster relief efforts and amplify advocacy initiatives to ensure that disaster survivors receive the support and care that is so needed during difficult times.

Supporting disaster-affected communities is not only a charitable act, but a fundamental responsibility that requires collaborative efforts from multiple organizations and passionate individuals. DSC’s partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance USA and the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness brings together a wealth of experience, knowledge, and resources, enabling DSC to be more effective in its work. Through the power of collective action and community involvement, a difference can be made in the lives of those who have faced the devastating effects of disasters.

To learn more about the mission of SVdP’s Disaster Services Corporation, visit www.svdpdisaster.org. Your support plays a crucial role in enabling us to respond promptly to disasters and advocate for better relief policies.

Let’s stand together in solidarity as we strive to build resilient communities and provide hope to disaster survivors.

SVdP Disaster Services Corporation Welcomes New Chairman of the Board

SVdP Disaster Services Corporation Welcomes New Chairman of the Board 787 738 SVDP USA

SVdP USA’s Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) is thrilled to announce the appointment of Brian Burgess as the new Chairman of the Board. Brian will succeed Chairman Emeritus Christopher Disney, assuming the position at the conclusion of his appointment.

With his extensive experience and dedication to the SVdP mission, Brian Burgess is well-suited to lead as Chairman of the Board. As he assumes this vital role, Brian expressed his excitement and humility, stating, “I am humbled and excited to be assuming the role of Chair of the DSC SVDP-USA Board. We have tremendous talent across our Board and core management staff. I look forward to serving with this team and our external partners to continue to grow capability for DSC to serve those impacted by disasters, helping them in times of dire need.”

Brian Burgess brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to his position as Chairman of the Board. He currently serves as the Vice President of the National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul and is also a member of the SVdP Foundation Board. Brian’s commitment to the Society’s cause is exemplified by his previous roles as chair of the Strategic Planning Committees for both the SVdP National Council and DSC.

Outside of his involvement with SVdP, Brian possesses over 30 years of experience in the Information Technology (IT) domain. He has been an integral part of Praeses, a privately-owned technology company based in Shreveport, LA, since 2006. In his current position as Program Manager, Brian is primarily responsible for customer relations and project oversight for the Department of Defense-focused research project portfolio at Praeses. Prior to his current role, he served as a Project Manager, concentrating on software development activities for a major defense contractor involved in building ships for the Navy and Coast Guard.

Before joining Praeses, Brian worked in the IT department at Louisiana Downs Racetrack & Casino for 14 years. Following that, he spent two years as a regional General Manager for United Tote. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Brian serves as the President of the Red River Regional Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

Brian Burgess is a native of Bossier City, LA, and holds a B.S. in Physics from LSU-Baton Rouge (1983) and an M.S. in Systems Technology from LSU-Shreveport (1990). He is not only a devoted professional but also a proud father to his daughter Kristen and a loving grandfather to Henry and Hayden.

Under the leadership of Chairman Brian Burgess, DSC is confident in its ability to continue growing its capabilities to serve those impacted by disasters. The organization looks forward to working alongside Chairman Burgess, the dedicated Board, and external partners to extend assistance to those in dire need.

Please visit www.svdpdisaster.org to learn more about how you can support our mission.

Disaster Services Corporation Launches Kare Wallet at VOAD Conference

Disaster Services Corporation Launches Kare Wallet at VOAD Conference 2420 1816 SVDP USA

Recently, SVdP’s Disaster Services Corporation attended the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Conference held in St. Louis. DSC had an exhibitor booth at the event where they were able to engage with the more than 800 attendees, and network with other organizations that work with those affected by disasters, including FEMA and DHS.

During the Conference, VOAD held elections for the their board and national committee. Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, SVdP DSC CEO, was re-elected as the Board Chairperson. Kevin Peach, SVdP DSC COO, was elected as Chairperson of the Advocacy Committee. Anthony Pluchino, SVdP DSC CPO, was elected as Chairperson of the Disaster Case Management Committee. In their work as members of the VOAD Board and various committees, these roles ensure that SVdP DSC is working collaboratively to provide disaster relief to those in need.

At the Conference, the Kare Wallet was unveiled. This is a collaborative effort between DSC, Algorland, AID:Tech, and Amazon Business. It introduces an innovative solution to streamline aid distribution to disaster survivors, saving both time and money. This partnership is vital to the success of this technology, as it has the potential to make a tangible difference in assisting those in need. Kevin Peach, the COO of the Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP-USA, represented the organization on a panel of partners from all the organizatiosn involved in producine the Kare Wallet where they explained the transformative impact the technology will have on the delivery of disaster assistance.

The Kare Wallet launch marks a significant achievement for DSC and its partners. We extend our gratitude to everyone involved in making this innovation possible. The Kare Wallet has the potential to revolutionize the way aid is distributed during disasters, and we are excited about the positive impact it will have on helping those in need.

Please visit www.svdpdisaster.org to learn more about how you can support our mission.

Bringing Help and Hope Through Disaster Assistance

Bringing Help and Hope Through Disaster Assistance 480 640 SVDP USA

Tornadoes. Floods. Hurricanes. Fires.

When a disaster strikes, you see neighbors pulling together to restore what was lost. But when entire communities are devastated, more help is needed.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is ready to step in at a moment’s notice to provide both rapid-response and long-term recovery grants. Working closely with the National Council subsidiary Disaster Services Corporation (DSC), parish Conferences and regional Councils, the National Council supports efforts ensuring that families in critical need of help are served not just for a few days or weeks following an event, but for however long it takes to get them back on their feet.

This kind of assistance goes beyond emergency food, water, furniture, and temporary housing. It is a
response of compassionate friendship, of journeying with, so that the long road back to self-sufficiency for those who are suffering is not a path walked alone.

During the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year, the National Council responded to 13 U.S. disaster recovery efforts with assistance totaling over $467,000.

Your generosity makes it possible. You enable the National Council to respond to requests for aid from SVdP volunteers who are the hands, the face, and the caring heart of Christ in times of crisis.

In 2022, DSC coordinated with FEMA and other organizations across the South and Midwest, helping prepare rapid response teams and finding locations for parish recovery centers to distribute supplies for tornado survivors.

The news coverage moved on long ago. But DSC and the National Council continue recovery work
in communities hit hard by disaster. We are often onsite many months after the disaster strikes to
assist in the rebuilding of homes, jobs, and lives.

The National Council provided more than $70,000 in rapid-response and long-term recovery grants
to local Vincentians working with DSC after Hurricane Ida. Funds were distributed as gift cards and hygiene kits to neighbors in need of living essentials including food and water, medications, baby formula, and diapers. Some funds assisted with funeral expenses.

Dave Brucker, SVdP Council President in Tyler, Texas, said, “I saw an army of local Vincentians volunteering at parish-based recovery centers — many full time over a couple of weeks, and many with their own damaged homes with which to contend. All so generous of their time. Disasters are never a good thing, but disasters can serve to bring out the best in people, and I was so happy to see this … God bless SVdP and DSC for facilitating the parish-based recovery centers, the volunteers, and the survivors facing significant challenges.”

Dedicated Vincentians Assist Those Affected by Recent Tornadoes

Dedicated Vincentians Assist Those Affected by Recent Tornadoes 1024 768 SVDP USA

SVdP Disaster Services Corporation is proud to announce that Vincentians Tom and Kathy Williams, both highly-trained DSC representatives, have successfully completed their deployment in Mississippi, where they spent six days tirelessly working to support disaster survivors in Rolling Fork and Silver City after the devastating tornadoes that hit in March 2023.

DSC sends trained volunteers to disaster sites across the country to support Councils in recovery efforts. During their time in Mississippi, Tom and Kathy helped a total of 99 households, providing referrals to legal services, crisis cleanup, medical care, and state insurance boards. They also assisted with FEMA relief applications, ensuring that those impacted by the disaster could receive the aid they needed to recover.

As volunteers, they had the privilege of meeting with community leaders and supporting the local SVdP Council’s disaster recovery efforts in the community. Throughout their deployment, Tom and Kathy witnessed the strength and resilience of the community. They expressed how grateful they were to be trusted with the survivors’ stories, and they will forever hold them in their hearts.

Tom and Kathy’s deployment made an important difference in the lives of these disaster survivors. DSC is proud of the work that Tom and Kathy accomplished, who are grateful for the opportunity to serve those in need.

Tom and Kathy feel blessed by their experience in Mississippi. Although the deployment may be over, the community is undoubtedly in good hands with local Vincentians and Pastor Britt Williamson. The work started by Kathy and Tom is being continued by Diane Clark, Vincentian and SE Regional Disaster Chair, and Jessica Duran, Vincentian and full-time Disaster Case Manager, who is taking time off from her regular duties to travel to Mississippi and provide further assistance to disaster survivors in their journey towards recovery.

Please visit www.svdpdisaster.org to learn more about how you can support our mission.

SVdP Donors Help Hurricane Survivors With Long-Term Recovery

SVdP Donors Help Hurricane Survivors With Long-Term Recovery 1336 678 SVDP USA

Floridian Kelly Knopf survived last September’s Hurricane Ian, the state’s deadliest storm in nearly 90 years.

“It was quite traumatic,” she told a reporter about those earliest hours and days. “I don’t think our community was quite prepared [because forecasters] said it would go more over Tampa; but it ended up hovering over Fort Myers Beach. It was a save-your-life type of situation.”

That change in expected direction was enough to make it too late for some people to evacuate, especially those who lack family, funds, or reliable transportation at a moment’s notice. Fear kept others in their homes to ride things out.

But thanks to generosity from our donors, the Disaster Services Corporation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul sprang into action. DSC delivered truckloads of protein food basics to the front lines. Vincentian volunteers distributed goods to neighbors at the epicenter of destruction. Hygiene kits and gift cards for essentials were given to families who lost everything.

“The Society of St. Vincent de Paul disaster relief people have been incredibly helpful with clothing, food, and whatever else they can,” Kelly said. “Getting people shelter and housing is hopefully next.”

Media coverage waned. But the Society’s dedication to providing critically needed aid didn’t. Gifts from friends like you kept us on the ground, helping people even as attention turned away from the disaster zone.

Thanks to the prayerful support and generosity of our donors, Vincentian volunteers continued to serve on the front lines. They delivered food, clothing, and other necessities. They helped survivors complete paperwork necessary to receive FEMA benefits. Councils helped with utility bills, furniture, household, and pantry items. They listened with patience and compassion and offered prayers for healing.

“It’s starting your whole life all over again. I mean, from nothing,” Kelly noted. “St. Vincent de Paul is a staple in our community, and hopefully they continue to help everyone do what’s next for them in their path in life … Having lots of kind people and friends become selfless enough to help you when you literally have nothing for yourself — that’s what keeps me hopeful.”

Gifts to the Society make all the difference in times like these. Because you respond with love and do what Our Lord calls you to do for those in need, people are surviving and returning to normal in Florida. Thank you!

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