Monday, September 26, 2016

"Your greatest test is when you are able to bless someone else while you are going through your own storm." -Unknown

The Catholic Church is the most charitable institution in the world.

On both world and local levels, they have invested countless volunteer hours and amounts of money into weaving charity and hope into the lives of those in desperate need of both.  So, what does something so large have to do with poverty and homelessness in Franklin County?

Sure, volunteers may be Catholic, people who donate money may be Catholic, but one thing (and this is just one example) that the Catholic Church itself has done is develop its own branch of aid at each parish: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

All to often, people are faced with a very difficult decision: buy food, medicine, gas, whatever it may be, or pay the bills to keep the utility company from shutting of the water, electricity, etc. at my house.  In other words, decide between what I need to survive and what I need to survive.  As you can guess, it's not an easy decision to make.  That's where the Society of St. Vincent de Paul steps in and opens its doors to those in need.  When people come to the branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where they live (in Union's case, Immaculate Conception Church and its pastor, Fr. Joe Post), they are often, as Fr. Joe points out, "behind several months [on paying bills] and usually call for assistance when the utility company is threatening to shut off the utility."  Now, the funding for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul relies solely on the generosity of those in the parish and community (and, in the case of Immaculate Conception's branch, Vincent's Closet), so the aid that can be provided is definitely limited, but the Society of St. Vincent de Paul finds a way to give one of the most meaningful gifts this world has to offer:

Time.

In August alone, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul distributed over $12,000 to 50 families and individuals, providing a little more time for them to establish a safety net for themselves.  Aid can only be given once in a year to ensure that everyone who needs help can receive it (again, funds are limited), but Fr. Post and other volunteers of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul "work hard to take care of the needs of the most desperate and those who truly need the help."

Although this utility assistance program's main clientele is not homeless (there are other Catholic charities that focus on that), many of those that receive aid would be homeless  without its existence.  While the program is not flawless--no program ever is--the Society of St. Vincent de Paul makes an impact on the lives of both volunteers and clients.  Each client's aid is based on their individual need: if there are specific needs or cases outside of the assistance usually given, the Society forms a web of support between parishes and agencies and anyone they need to to give the recipient the help that they need to keep moving forward with their lives.

Along the way, all involved gain something that doesn't have a price tag: the gratitude that comes when we realize someone is behind us to steady our feet and guide our steps on this road that we call life.

There are so many organizations like this one that provide the amazing gifts of time and physical resources to allow those in need to rebuild their lives, but, starting now, we're going to take this in a new direction.  Starting now, we'll begin to discover what is and isn't and should be done to aid people on even deeper levels.  It's time to tackle the root of the problem.

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