Fires destroying communities in the western United States, hurricanes pounding our southeastern shores, and floods and tornados taking a toll throughout our country regularly make headlines for a few days. Those newsflashes are then quickly replaced by the next tragic story. The recovery process and the suffering, however, stretch over many years. Our Society’s network of charity is active in helping neighbors in need in many communities challenged by disaster. Long after the cameras are gone, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul will still be there helping.
Our Society has always shared resources within our network when disasters strike. In a few weeks you will be receiving a solicitation to provide financial support for our disaster efforts both domestic and international. Why this general campaign for disaster funding? Raising money once a big disaster strikes may have a greater appeal but tends to create a strategic problem. We may receive a tremendous response to the first hurricane of the season, but funds designated specifically for relief from that disaster are then not available to address future storms that may create even greater need. Having the funds in advance lets us respond more quickly to immediate needs and also allows us to help our Councils with the many disasters that never make national headlines.
The solicitation you’ll see soon will be a joint appeal from the National Council and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Service Corporation (DSC). The DSC works closely with the National Council and local Councils and Conferences to provide needed financial aid, training, and outside Vincentian volunteers when local resources are inadequate to meet the need. That is frequently the case. We are very proud of the work done by the DSC. In May the Disaster Services Corporation SVdP-USA was named “Member of the Year” for 2021 by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). When you give to our campaign, you can be assured that your contributions will be carefully distributed and monitored by a highly qualified and respected organization.
This appeal also includes a commitment to helping our brother and sister Vincentians throughout the world. Our network of charity extends to more than 150 other countries, most of which struggle financially to provide even simple forms of charity. When disasters occur, Councils in these nations look to those of us in countries that have the ability to help.
We have all heard news stories of nonprofit organizations mismanaging funds for big international disasters. When we give to our own international Councils, there are mechanisms in place for accountability through the Commission for International Aid and Development (CIAD), including requirements of U.S. Homeland Security. Bill Brassier, our Midwest Region Vice President, and I are members of this commission.
As is the case with domestic funding, it is preferable to have funds given without being designated to a particular disaster. Sometimes, we need to respond immediately to situations that never make the news. At other times, our members in an area that receives major attention lack the capacity to organize major projects to use the funds that are generated. Our international process works best when the receiving country makes an application for assistance with our office in Paris. That application will outline how the funds are to be used and will require ongoing reporting.
Vincentians in the United States are very generous in supporting the activity of our brothers and sisters who volunteer to aid those who suffer the terrible impact of disasters. During my presidential term, we have collected an average of about $1.25 million a year, with 75 percent of that being used in the United States and 25 percent to providing assistance internationally. Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been one large disaster of an unusual nature. The pandemic has put an even greater strain on our members when they face the many other forms of disaster that confront us every year. Look for more information to arrive in the weeks to come, and please help us continue to support this important work of responding to the need and suffering disasters cause.
Serviens in spe,
SVdP National President