House in a Box

St. Vincent de Paul Continues to Serve 2021 Tornado Survivors

St. Vincent de Paul Continues to Serve 2021 Tornado Survivors 2554 2560 SVDP USA

On November 11, St. Vincent de Paul of Western Kentucky hosted 50 families who survived the 2021 tornadoes with a pre-Thanksgiving celebration in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Many survivors expressed their gratitude for St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation’s national House in a Box™ program. One survivor, Tommy Jackson, singled out SVdP Community Liaison, Vicki Duncan: “Miss Vicki was so helpful through it all. When I didn’t know where to go or what to do, she gave me direction. She is truly a blessing.” When he left, Jackson shared with Miss Vicki a handmade afghan and several scripture quotes that are dear to him.

Survivors had a chance to visit with SVdP Diocesan Council Board Members: President Nancy Harris and Vice President Harry Bellew. Harris reflected, “Journeying with the survivors in their recovery is essential so they know they’re not forgotten. We as Vincentians are the long-term recovery people. When everyone else is gone, we’re still here to help. Western Kentucky is our home.”

She continued, “I was humbled by their gratitude — their stories made it so real for me. It was also a great opportunity for us to visit with our special Mayfield Vincentians, they are our local boots on the ground.” The St. Joseph Conference from Mayfield provided the survivor families with fellowship and wonderful hospitality, including delicious food and refreshments.

The community still faces many unmet needs. SVdP Diocesan Council CEO Richard B. Remp-Morris says, “We are thankful for the resources to continue to help tornado survivors. We have seen such generosity from our donors, especially St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Services Corporation and the American Red Cross. However, the need is still so great. It has been a privilege — and at the same time personally rewarding — to be able to serve the western Kentucky tornado survivors.”

As families left the event, they were gifted a new microwave, a tin of holiday cookies, and a $50 gift card towards their Thanksgiving meal. All children received a small bag of candy.

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

Disaster Services Update

Disaster Services Update 2000 1600 SVDP USA

Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) has been incredibly busy this year, responding to the devastating winter storms, wildfires, floods, tornados, and hurricanes which have compounded the suffering of Americans who are dealing with the second year of a deadly pandemic.

DSC, while having a modest team, has had a major impact in Vincentian communities nationwide. More than ever, DSC has focused their relief efforts on supporting SVdP Councils and Conferences, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash cards, tarpaulins, tents, generators, hygiene kits, hotel stays, food commodities, and disaster case work.

Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, Chief Executive Officer, recently visited the Council of Nashville, Tennessee to tour the devastation from the catastrophic fall floods in Waverly, TN and worked with the Nashville Council, local government officials, and partners on standing up DSC’s national recognized recovery program, House in the Box.

Two months ago, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States hit Louisiana and then traveled from LA to PA, NY, NJ, and other eastern states. Hurricane Ida killed 115 people. Kevin Peach, Chief Operating Officer, visited Louisiana to answer the call for support from the Archdiocesan Council of New Orleans and the Council of Houma-Thibodaux. He visited several key locations, met with FEMA and state leadership, and joined partners in recovery planning for the region. Currently, Vincentians across the Southeast and North Central Regions have come to the aid of their fellow Vincentians in manning four Parish Recovery Assistance Centers (PRACs) across Louisiana. They are providing cash cards, handing out tarpaulins, and registering survivors for FEMA assistance.

Anthony Pluchino, Chief Program Officer, continues to lead the State of Oregon with the Disaster Case Management Program (DCMP). He visited Oregon and met with the ODHS management, state sponsored DCMs, Catholic Charites DCMs, Glide Revitalization DCMs, and Santiam Service Integration team. In addition, he met with leaders of the community and LTRGs to discuss programs and special projects that can help the survivors recover in the community. Anthony shared his experience on the devastation that he witnessed from the wildfires. At some of the sites he visited, there was nothing left standing except for a stone fireplace or chimney. Acres of trees burnt from the fire have been cut down and trucked away. Since the trees have been cut down, there is growing concern of potential mudslides. At times, Anthony reports that it was hard to breathe because of the smoke still hanging over the mountains. The total Value of Services provided to date is in excess of $ 250,000. Our partners are working very closely with the LTRGs to obtain much needed resources for the survivors.

Eastern Region

  • NJ Hurricane Ida
  • PA Hurricane Ida
  • WV Floods

Mideast Region

  • KY Floods

Southeastern Region

  • TN Floods
  • FL Hurricane Ida
  • GA Hurricane Ida
  • LA Hurricane Ida

South Central

  • TX Winter Storm

Western Region

  • CA Wild Fires
  • NV Wild Fires

Please keep all of the disaster survivors across the nation, as well as DSC’s staff and volunteers in your prayers.

DSC House in a Box

House in a Box Program Provides Home Essentials for Michigan Flood Survivors

House in a Box Program Provides Home Essentials for Michigan Flood Survivors 2560 1921 SVDP USA

While the media focuses on the winter-weather disasters that recently impacted Texas and other Southern states, neighbors to the north are still recovering from a different disaster that hit one community almost a year ago. A historic 500-year flood that swept through Midland County, Michigan in May 2020 left thousands facing hardship. But thanks to a partnership between the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group, United Way of Midland County and the Disaster Services Corporation, flood survivors can receive home essentials in an efficient “one-stop shop” way as they work to rebuild their lives.

House in a Box

Organized and led by the Disaster Services Corporation – Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA, the House in a Box Program™ (HIB) provides necessary home items for disaster survivors, all in one kit. One package includes the following brand-new items:

  • Beds
  • Linens
  • Dishes
  • Pots and pans
  • Dressers
  • Silverware
  • Bathroom setup
  • Dinette
  • Couch

“The goal of the program is to provide new household items for families who have lost everything due to a disaster — like the flood that Midland County experienced — and who are forced into situational poverty because of such events,” said Kevin Peach, COO, Disaster Services Corporation.  “House in a Box gives dignity to families in crisis as it gives them a new and fresh start.”

Midland County’s Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group — a cross-sector group of individuals from a variety of organizations and agencies working together to help the community recover from the flood — helped spearhead the efforts to bring HIB to Midland County.

“After the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group reviewed the program and met with SVDP-USA Disaster Services representatives, we found a perfect match between what this well-established program offers and the needs of individuals and families who suffered catastrophic loss in the Midland County flooding,” said Rev. Matthew W. Schramm, Long Term Disaster Recovery Group member and senior pastor/head of staff at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland. “Being able to receive these building blocks of a home in one place is convenient. For those who have experienced such upheaval, convenience is a blessing.”

As part of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group, United Way of Midland County helped provide financial support, as well as logistical and volunteer coordination for distribution of the household items. On February 23, volunteers from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the United Way gathered at the warehouse to assemble and organize the HIB materials for distribution.

Says Peach, “It really is a holistic approach to try to get everything (disaster victims) could possibly need.”

Disaster Services Corporation

The Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) is a Catholic lay organization that helps people in situational poverty brought about by natural and manmade disasters get their lives back in order. It is a sister company to the National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which has provided disaster relief since its founding in France in 1833.

How Does the HIB Selection Process Work?

“Families are reviewed and referred to the program through a Disaster Case Management process that ensures that there is no duplication of benefits,” according to Peach. “DSC buys furniture and furnishings in volume through pre-screened vendors so that it can provide a starter household furniture kit at a greatly reduced price.”

All families receive the same new items which are packaged for efficiency of delivery. The program is scalable to the size of the family and starts at $3,200 for a family of four. United Way is utilizing funds from their Rise Together fund to purchase the kits at a discounted rate, saving over $58,000, versus paying for these new household items individually.

Midland Flooding

You may not have heard of the flooding in Midland, but its impact on local residents was devastating. Over 10,000 people fled their homes because of the Midland County flood, which resulted in over $200 million in damages to more than 2,500 buildings.

“Rebuilding after a disaster is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Bre Sklar. “It does not happen overnight. But through the generosity of organizations and programs like House in a Box™, our community members can get access to much-needed resources to pick up the pieces of their lives.”

For more information on the Disaster Services Corporation – Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA, including how to donate to help disaster survivors, visit their website.

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