Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, often in low-income areas because of flooding and tornadoes in the Midwest earlier this year. They will need assistance for months as they work to put their lives back together. Society of St. Vincent de Paul members have been working to help those in need.
St. Louis area flooding
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis provided aid for residents in flood-ravaged zones around the metro area, including emergency temporary lodging in nearby hotels.
Some displaced families found immediate shelter in high school gymnasiums, sleeping on cots or in state park camps. Others are living in other temporary situations.
“We want to help families find a more secure short-term solution,” said Annette Bligh, chairwoman of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis disaster relief committee. “Our conferences are organizing ways to place people in hotels and feed them.”
Multi-agency resource centers (MARCs) are a collaboration of agencies that provide assistance to victims of disasters, in this case to people affected by flooding. At the MARCs, volunteers from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have been assessing and providing for needs ranging from short to longer term. These needs may include lodging, food, water, transportation, prescription assistance, clothing, household goods, mattresses, and furniture.
Disasters have lasting effects, both to people and property. Victims of disasters such as this may feel frustrated and hopeless. Vincentians are trained to offer compassion as well as assistance.
“While they may come looking for physical or financial help, they also need spiritual and emotional support. It’s a gift we as Vincentian volunteers can offer them,” said John Heithaus, director of Vincentian Services for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis.
Vincentians are trained to offer compassion as well as assistance.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Mid-Missouri tornado and flood relief
Vincentians from several conferences in central and eastern Missouri participated in two MARC events in Jefferson City and one in Eldon to help people affected by tornadoes and flooding in Mid-Missouri. Assistance was given to nearly 400 families. At the MARCs, Vincentians distributed hundreds of Walmart gift cards, paid off electric utility disconnect notices, and provided transportation assistance. Local Jefferson City SVdP conference volunteers will follow up with each family to determine longer-term needs and provide assistance.
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Dayton council assists with tornado recovery
On Memorial Day night and into the early morning, more than 15 tornadoes struck the Dayton, Ohio area, including a devastating EF4 that destroyed or heavily damaged more than 750 residential structures. Apartment buildings, houses, and businesses were completely destroyed in some of the lowest income neighborhoods in the area.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul immediately went to work, deploying hundreds of volunteers into the affected neighborhoods with food, water, clothing, spiritual support, and financial assistance to individuals and families with no home or employment because of the tornadoes.
More than 2,000 residents were displaced and more than 500 of them required long-term assistance.
Michael Vanderburgh, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Dayton, chairs the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group, a coalition of faith-based and other social service organizations that provided personal support and repair and rebuilding assistance for tornado victims.
“We’re doing what the society has always done, expressing our faith in Jesus Christ through corporal works of mercy to our neighbors in need,” Vanderburgh said. “We are providing clothing, food, shelter, and accompaniment to tornado victims, and we are receiving abundant graces as God works through them.”
We’re doing what the society has always done, expressing our faith in Jesus Christ through corporal works of mercy to our neighbors in need.
Editor’s Note: This article was provided to Catholic Digest through a partnership with the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. It was written by the organization’s Gary Stevens.