The Society of St. Vincent de Paul helps the local needy, with financial help from United Way of Wayne County, as well as parish collections, grants, special donations from the children at St. Mary School and private donations.
It’s a worldwide Catholic group whose goal is to serve the poor and those in need, regardless of their creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender or political opinions.
The local group is the St. Mary Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The group gives between $1,200 and $1,500 in financial help to people in Wayne County each month, said one of the founding members, Effie Labrecque.
Help could be in the form of paying utility bills, purchasing medications and help with gas, said volunteer Ray Urban.
And help also comes in the form of food from the group’s food pantry.
“Generally we take two grocery bags of food, but if we know it’s a large family, we may take four bags,” he said.
SVDP volunteers don’t just hand out assistance, but they go into the homes of those they help.
“As far as I know, we’re the only charitable organization here that makes an in-home visit,” Labrecque said. “And we go in pairs.”
She said this gives the volunteers a better insight as to the need of the person.
“We do a lot of counseling,” she said, “especially when it comes to conservation of electricity and water. If they say, ‘My water bill has been extremely high,’ we might ask if they’ve checked the spigot outside, that maybe one of the children has cut the spigot on. We do go through a lot of conservation items.”
Urban said some people needing assistance have had an unfortunate situation, maybe a medical problem or maybe getting laid off of a job.
Sometimes he sees people who are disabled and unable to work.
Others he sees were born with a learning disability and have a hard time getting a job.
And sometimes he sees people who have had substance abuse in the past and it’s affected their ability to function at a high enough level to be self-sufficient.
But the volunteers are not there to judge, just to help.
But SVDP volunteers don’t just give people help and walk away.
“We also teach them how to help themselves,” Labrecque said.
“A big part of what we do is education. Whenever possible, we strive to help the poor to meet the immediate need and improve their lives in the near and longer terms.
“Depending on the need, our assistance might go beyond the payment of a bill. We might provide a few days’ food, advocacy, job search tips or help search for a new residence.”
The whole idea is to help lift people out of poverty.
Labrecque said volunteers also pray with each person they help and leave a card with a prayer on it, which reads: “Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring. The same loving God who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Be at peace then and set aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. Amen.”