Immersing Neighbors in Love and Mercy

Immersing Neighbors in Love and Mercy 2560 1490 SVDP USA

You might imagine that the day someone is released from prison would be the best and happiest day of their incarceration. But that’s not always the case.

Many agonize over leaving. Why? Because they’ll walk out to freedom with no more than that. No clothes, money, phone minutes, or even a valid ID. No job — and often not a single friend or family member they can go back to. Alone on a bus at the end of the line, they have no idea where to go or what to do next.

Having the right kind of help in those first hours and days is critical to making a successful return to society. So is having ongoing help for weeks, months, and even years to come.

Thanks to generous support from donors to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vincentian volunteers are receiving the spiritual formation and training they need to serve neighbors in need with the most effective person-to-person assistance possible. The success of the Society’s Immersion Reentry Program is one example.

Begun in early 2019, Immersion provides citizens returning to their communities with caring and compassionate support from Vincentian volunteers along every step of their journey. Immediate help includes providing transitional services during the first 72 hours after release, as well as basics like food, clothing, and shelter. Longer-term support includes mentoring, employment assistance, education, help reconnecting with loved ones, advocacy, and securing permanent housing.

“We are following in the footsteps of our founders,” says Peter Kortright. He and Diana Reeves co-founded Immersion in their Attleboro, Massachusetts Council. Frédéric Ozanam and the first Vincentians encountered these same situations nearly two hundred years ago. The first Home Visits they carried out eventually became the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. They offered practical and prudent ways to reflect God’s mercy.

“Visiting the prisoner who is preparing to reenter the community is quite like a Home Visit, God is asking us to pay special attention to those least of us who may need it.”

“Nobody anywhere gets paid to accompany someone so closely for so long in their journey back to self-sufficiency,” Kortwright says. “Vincentians do it for love, with the traditions, mission, and zeal of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and guidance from the Holy Spirit.”

The power of praying together, listening, empathizing, organizing, and taking action means the world to brothers and sisters who are rebuilding their lives.

Over 2019 – 2021, volunteers accompanied Christine step-by-step following her release from prison. Along the road they offered grocery gift cards, bus passes, clothing, and rent to enter a “sober house” for two months. There were empowerment classes, job applications, and help to regain custody of her children. There were shared tears and cheers, and many prayers of gratitude.

Last July, with the Society’s assistance in funding a security deposit, Christine moved into her own space — the biggest step so far in her journey forward. “It’s small and it’s kind of ugly, but it has a lock on the door and it is mine,” she said with a smile.

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!

Winter 2023 Serving in Hope Newsletter Now Out

Winter 2023 Serving in Hope Newsletter Now Out 2141 2827 SVDP USA

The latest edition of our Serving in Hope Newsletter is now available!

Serving in Hope shares stories of how the Society of St. Vincent de Paul changes lives across the country. This issue’s cover story features Kelly, a survivor of Hurricane Ian, who was helped by Disaster Services Corporation, thanks to donations to our Annual Disaster Appeal. We also bring you the story of an SVdP Conference in Illinois who used two Friends of the Poor Grants from the National Council to bring life-changing aid to neighbors in need in their community. And you’ll meet a donor who wanted to support a Catholic nonprofit, and found the right blend of faith and service in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Serving in Hope is published quarterly and sent to all donors of the National Council. If you haven’t received your copy yet, click here to read Serving in Hope

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

    Skip to content