Disaster Services Corporation

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.

SVdP Provides Help on the Long Road to Recovery

SVdP Provides Help on the Long Road to Recovery 1024 662 SVDP USA

Desiree, a hardworking mom of twin boys, was devastated when her car and home were severely damaged by a flash flood in their hometown of Waverly, Tennessee.

In the aftermath of the storm, a local Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was there to help, along with rapid-response grants from the National Council and aid from the SVdP-USA Disaster Services Corporation (DSC).

SVdP volunteers sprang into action to provide the family with new beds, furniture, and other household necessities. The Society was also able to help many other survivors by providing funds that helped with food, transportation assistance, home repairs, mold removal, and other damages not covered by insurance or other organizations.

“I just started crying because I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Desiree recalls with gratitude. “It’s very helpful knowing that we’ll have some beds and things to sleep on once we get back into our house. I thank God for getting us out of there and for the help we’ve been shown from complete strangers.”

Tragically, 20 residents lost their lives in the deluge, including one Vincentian volunteer of the St. Patrick-McEwen Conference. Hundreds of homes and businesses were swept away.

Many weeks after those dark clouds departed, the SVdP “silver linings” continued to shine on families in crisis. Cindy Barnes, a Vincentian volunteer, helped provide handmade quilts to a dozen victims of the flood. “My hope is that we can all just show each other that we care, that it matters to us that they’re suffering, and that we want to do what we can to help them.”

Thank you for empowering the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with the resources we need to provide Vincentian volunteers with financial support, spiritual formation, education, and the training they need to assist our most vulnerable neighbors effectively.

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.”

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!

SVdP Disaster Services Attends Legal Services Forum

SVdP Disaster Services Attends Legal Services Forum 1920 2560 SVDP USA

SVdP Disaster Services Corporation CEO, Elizabeth Disco-Shearer recently attended the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) of America’s Access to Justice Forum. The forum was aimed at advocating for more legal aid dollars in disaster aid and increased services to affected families without ready access to legal services.

During the forum, Elizabeth gained insight into the lives of individual cases that had faced numerous roadblocks, from getting evicted by slumlords who did not want to make repairs, to losing their minimum wage jobs when their transportation was lost or destroyed. The panelists discussed the work they were doing to make changes both legislatively and in corporate America, but they all highlighted that families living at or below the federal poverty level faced many issues in their recovery. They emphasized that it was important not to judge people for not having flood insurance, car insurance, or renter’s insurance, and to avoid looking at survivors through our own life lenses.

After the panel, a reception was held at the Supreme Court, Elizabeth had the opportunity to network with various decision-makers and share the work of SVdP and DSC. Elizabeth said the experience was eye-opening and helped shed light on the challenges faced by families living in poverty. It really made it clear how important the work being done is to helping them access legal services. DSC often uses local Legal Aid Services across the country to help disaster survivors with appeals to FEMA, especially when it comes to proof of home ownership.

SVdP Disaster Services Update

SVdP Disaster Services Update 2560 1920 SVDP USA

In December of 2021 an EF4 tornado struck several towns in Western Kentucky injuring 533 people and killing 57 people. The following summer season, torrential rains and deadly flooding struck in the same region of the state, impacting 14 counties and three cities declared local states of emergency. At least 37 people died, including four children.

Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) teamed up with the Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky and the American Red Cross in their disaster recovery operations through the nationally recognized House in a Box™ program. Through national partnerships, DSC was able to secure $1,700,000 in grant funding and $200,000 in in-kind donations from Good360 in the form of toys. To date, over 82 families have been served with 418 more families to go. In addition, SVdP Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky is leveraging their warehouse space to distribute toys to parents who otherwise would be unable to provide toys for their children for Christmas or birthdays. Families can also pick up hand-made quilts from SVdP’s partner agencies.

St. Vincent DePaul Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky CEO, Richard Remp-Morris says, “This has been a humbling experience, meeting the tornado survivors and hearing their horrific stories. I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and support in serving those in need with fellow Vincentians, Disaster Services Corp, Catholic Charities, VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters), and Long-Term Recovery groups.

Kevin Peach, Chief Operating Officer at Disaster Services Corporation, stated that “DSC is an awe of the resiliency of Kentuckians and we continue to support Kentuckians on their road to recovery. We’ve helped 82 families so far, help us assist more and as many more as needed to help these families and communities completely recover.”

To date the SVdP Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky has served more than 82 families with our grant funding and anticipate serving as many as 500 families’ total. The ability to serve more families will be possible if additional funding is raised,” says Remp-Morris.

One family that was supported by SVdP is the the Doty family from Fulton, Kentucky which was one of the areas devastated by the December 2021 tornado. While most of their possessions were lost or ruined that fateful night, they were able to rebuild their home. For several months they lived with family and later moved into a camper. It was crowded with seven kids and two adults.

Colin Doty said, “This is a gift from God for us. You can imagine how tight money is with seven kids but this is helping so much. Most everything we had is gone. Tonight everyone will have a bed and mattress to sleep on.”

DSC is incredibly thankful for the Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky and their good works to support those in their greatest time of need. Supporting disaster survivors at the end of the recovery life cycle is arduous work that often goes unnoticed and forgotten about by many who have not been impacted by disaster. May God bless you for your grace and kindness that has been extended to the impacted community.

Learn more about how you can help support our mission at: www.svdpdisaster.org


SVdP Disaster Services Supports Buffalo Blizzard Victims

SVdP Disaster Services Supports Buffalo Blizzard Victims 1920 1080 SVDP USA

It was called “a once-in-a-generation event.” The major winter storm that impacted parts of the U.S. and Western New York. Buffalo and surrounding areas are used to experiencing severe winter weather, but nothing like the storm that took place last December. The weather event caused 51.9 inches of snow to fall, -30 degree wind chills, 80 MPH winds, and over 39 fatalities.

Thankfully, Vincentians were able to respond to the disaster related event and support those in need.

“The blizzard of December 23, 2023 literally blew in Friday morning, closing stores and implementing travel bans for the next 5 days in Buffalo and Erie County. With 75 mph wind gusts, home was the safest place to be. However, our friends in need, as well as many others lost power and food in their refrigerators just days before Christmas. By the time the city opened up, the need for assistance was obvious for Vincentian,” said Cheri Frank, President of Diocesan Council of Buffalo.

“We received a $10,000 Rapid Relief Grant from the National Council and provided 15 Conferences with financial assistance to give out food gift cards and deliver space heaters to those with no heat due to furnace problems caused by the storm. I’m pleased to report, that the funding helped over 300 families with food insecurities and 12 families with space heaters. Thank you to all those involved.”

St. Vincent de Paul and DSC Bring Christmas Joy to Kentucky Tornado Survivors

St. Vincent de Paul and DSC Bring Christmas Joy to Kentucky Tornado Survivors 2000 1600 SVDP USA

The holiday season should be a happy time filled with family, and cheer. It should be a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and our love for each other.

However, the feelings of celebration are being overshadowed by uncertainty for those who are still being affected by the aftermath of devastating tornadoes that touched down in western Kentucky one year ago. For those affected, life still hasn’t returned to normal, and holiday celebrations are still in limbo.

Children look forward to presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. And making sure Santa shows up, can be difficult for families still working on recovering from the damage left by last year’s tornado.

This year, Santa is getting some help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Diocesan Council of Western Kentucky, and SVdPUSA’s Disaster Services Corporation. Through DSC’s partnership with Good360, hundreds of toys were donated to help bring Christmas cheer this holiday season.

“I’ve been having anxiety, waking up at night, about Christmas for these kids who lost everything in the December 2021 tornado,” said Patrick Clary, Warehouse Manager for SVdP’s Western Kentucky Disaster Relief Warehouse. “To be able to provide these toys for those affected families, it means everything to them and to us. Providing these needed toys is one of the greatest joys of my career.”

One single mother expressed her gratitude after receiving gifts for her children, “I’m so grateful, this is just overwhelming. The generosity of people is truly a blessing.”

We feel so blessed that SVdP and DSC were able to be a small part of bringing a little holiday cheer to these families that have lost so much! God Bless!


12-8-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders

12-8-2022 A Letter From Our Servant Leaders 900 900 SVDP USA

Dear Vincentians,

This time of the year, when we give thanks for all our blessings, I always reflect over my seventeen years in disaster relief work for the Society and recall so many Vincentian heroes. The work we do at Disaster Services is difficult as we witness so much destruction and heartache, but we also get to see lives healed and systemic change in action. I would like to share with you some of my very special memories of Vincentian Servant Leaders and their gifts.

I have worked or overseen relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav, Alex, Mathew, Florence, Harvey, Irma, Maria, Michael, Ida, and now Ian, in addition to numerous tornados in IL, KY, MO, OK, TN, and TX, and floods in the Midwest, IL, KY, NE, and WV, Wildfires in the West, to include CA, NM, OR, and WA, and other disasters like the COVID-19 Pandemic and West Texas Fertilizer Explosion. No matter the disaster, we have always had Vincentian Servant Leaders that have come forward to deploy to help other Councils or were willing to go in and help a neighboring Catholic community where we had no Conference. From these experiences, we have also indirectly helped with the extension of the Society.

During Hurricane Katrina, Dick Reimbold and his wife Irene were two such leaders and they came to Dallas to help me run a 70,000 square foot warehouse for our Katrina House in a Box™ Program. The hours were long and there were so many stories of loss and death, but they stayed for weeks and through it all kept me going, as I was so stressed out from the thousands of families that needed assistance. To this day, Dick still volunteers and is now serving as our Mideast Disaster Chair. Then there is the amazing Vincentian, Jim Butler, who has deployed to numerous disasters over the years. During Hurricane Ike, Jim went with me and a local Catholic priest to visit an area called Oak Island, TX. Oak Island was a Vietnamese community, and the survivors were camped out on the ground near their destroyed properties. They were afraid to go to shelters as they thought people would loot the very little they had left on their land. Jim said, “well if we cannot get them to shelter, why don’t we take them shelter.” We worked with the Council of Beaumont to raise money for tents, and I called the Red Cross who donated blankets and bug spray. Jim and I, along with local Vincentians carried in all these items to the disaster zone on Oak Island, so that the immigrant families could stay on their land.

When West Virginia had a series of very heavy and fatal floods in 2016, Jim Butler, Diane Clark and Tom Link all deployed with me to help set up a SVDP Recovery Center in a former Kmart building. Many of our local Vincentians could not travel the distances between the flood impacted counties and this dynamic team of three came to assist. The state of WV and WV Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD) had very little supplies and Diane, Jim and Tom sat on old plastic paint containers and did intake and casework for hundreds of families. When I walked in the building and saw them sitting on those old plastic containers, it brought a tear to my eye, but they never complained.

One of our superstar Vincentians over the years was Gail Bertrand, who is now guiding us from above. Gail was always willing to go the extra mile to help disaster survivors. Gail had gone through many hurricanes and had her own property heavily damaged. She understood what it was like to come home to a mold invested dwelling with all your family pictures and family bible under water. Gail had a big heart and always found a way to help disaster survivors. One special memory of Gail , of which there are many, was when we deployed to help our Vincentians in the Carolinas, after Hurricane Florence. We had set up a Disaster Relief Center and an elderly woman came to the center. The woman had lost her documents in the Hurricane and was so embarrassed that she did not know how to retrieve any of her documents. She just cried and cried. Gail held her and told her not to worry. The woman was also very hungry, and Gail fixed a plate of food for her from the food we had bought for the volunteers. After Gail got her registered with FEMA, she worked to find her temporary housing in a nearby hotel and to find a local community agency that could provide eldercare. When the woman left, I told Gail how impressed I was with her empathy, and she said “Liz I get to see the face of Christ in what we do. It is not empathy or sympathy, but my faith that drives me.” Gail modeled Vincentian Charism. For her it was a way of life.

So, as I was driving into Dallas, to be with my family over the Thanksgiving Holidays, I realized that I have been so very blessed to be in a leadership role with Disaster Services Society of St Vincent de Paul USA.  The hours are long, and I am often gone from home for up to six months. However, it is has been so very spiritually fulfilling to watch the growth of our Parish Recovery Assistance Centers, where we provide one on one disaster relief services,  to our Disaster Case Management Programs, where we provide a road map to recovery for the most vulnerable survivors and create systemic change in their lives, to our nationally known House in a Box ™ Program where we have helped so many families in complex and life changing situations. I want to thank each of you for your support of our mission and we could not do what we do without our Vincentian family.

Elizabeth Disco-Shearer
CEO, Disaster Services Corp SVDP-USA

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