At the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s recent National Assembly in St. Louis, the SVdP National Foundation honored former National President Deacon Gene Smith with the Founder’s Award.
The National Foundation works to support the work of the National Council and strengthens the Vincentian network of charity through financial support and other endeavors. Their award recognizes Smith’s exceptional service and outstanding contributions to the National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Smith served a six-year term as National President from 1999 to 2005. Among the hallmarks of his presidency, Smith let the Society through its first strategic plan, and helped implement the Society’s first formal mission statement. He also oversaw establishment of the Voice of the Poor Committee, developed “to uphold Catholic social teaching by researching, validating, documenting, advocating, and promulgating issues related to the condition of the poor and disenfranchised.”
Congratulations, Gene! We thank you for your service and devotion to the Society.
It’s been just over a year since Tasha called the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church in Owensboro, Kentucky. “It changed my life,” she says. “I was at the point of giving up. I was absolutely at my breaking point.”
After having made some bad decisions in her life, she was determined to make good decisions, especially because of her two boys. She was holding down a job at McDonald’s, as was her 16-year-old son Jamison, both of them working different shifts so one of them could be home with 10-year-old son Jaxon.
Try as she may, Tasha could not make ends meet. She and her boys were living at a local motel. It wasn’t the life she wanted for them, but at least it was a roof over their heads, and they were together. After living at the motel for more than a year, someone suggested Tasha call St. Vincent de Paul to see if they could help.
She was scared to call, afraid that they would not help her family. But Tasha put her pride aside and picked up the phone to call the Vincentians at Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church.
The Vincentian who returned her call that day was named Braun. Desperate to get her family out of the motel and into secure housing, Tasha told Braun that she had enough money for one month’s rent, but the landlord was requiring a deposit of another month’s rent. She wondered if St. Vincent de Paul could help her with the deposit.
Braun told her, “Do not give up. There is a way for St. Vincent de Paul to help.” With the amount of the deposit, he called a couple of other local churches to see if they could contribute. After securing the deposit funds, he called Tasha and told her she could go ahead and move into her rented home.
More good news was to come for Tasha. Braun called her again and offered her a job at Kentron, a metal stamping company where Braun works. Tasha said “I could not believe it. I was so excited and could not believe this was happening to me.”
There were more challenges to come, but Tasha and Braun didn’t give up.
Remembers Braun, “She did not pass her physical the first time, but there were extenuating circumstances. Her car broke down, so she ran all the way to the doctor’s office in the rain and was so out of breath she could not pass the physical exam. We had her take it again and she passed with flying colors. She wanted this job, this opportunity to change her life.”
During her probationary period, Tasha got sick and had numerous doctors’ appointments and tests, but the company stuck with her. Another hurdle came when the home she had rented went up for sale, so Tasha and her family would have to move again. Fortunately, she found one she loved. Her landlord has even entered a contract for deed sale, which will allow Tasha to buy the home.
“This is the beauty of being a Vincentian: Being able to help break the bonds of systemic poverty,” says Braun.
Tasha wants people to know, “There is a chance. There is hope that life can get better. But you must want to change your life. There is a power greater than us that can help if we want it to, and let it. My plans are to keep moving forward every day, to stay focused, to not give up, and to get up every day trying to do the right thing.”
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.
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.”