17:22 PM

Community Impact: Society of St. Vincent de Paul

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has a long history of helping people in need. Founded in Paris in 1833, the society now spans more than 130 countries and all 50 states in the United States.

In North and Central Georgia, there are 71 chapters, called conferences, linked by the common mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to serve the needy. Locally, the conferences in Winder, Flowery Branch, Jefferson and Gainesville have each recently received grants from the Jackson EMC Foundation to provide assistance for those in need, primarily for housing assistance.

When a family is facing eviction from their home, they may reach out to a local conference for assistance.

“Eviction is a proven way to be long-term poor,” said Mike Gallagher of the Flowery Branch conference.

The hallmark of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is in-home visits between volunteers and those seeking assistance. The volunteers, called “Vincentians,” determine how the nonprofit organization can best serve them or point them to available resources, including those provided by other organizations. Many local conferences also provide a food pantry, thrift store and help line.

Ed Flaherty has been volunteering with the Winder conference for 12 years. The in-home visits, he says, helps volunteers understand the needs of those seeking assistance.

“It’s more beneficial when it’s face-to-face with someone and their situation,” he said.

Oftentimes, job loss or medical bills are the top reasons why people are unable to afford their rent and mortgages, according to Gallagher. Along with a home visit, St. Vincent volunteers also perform administrative work to verify with landlords or banks the status of an applicant’s housing assistance needs. Volunteers may also be able to work with landlords on behalf of applicants for payment options.

Despite the improved economy, Gallagher said volunteers are still helping with a high number of requests for housing assistance.

“Rents and mortgages have been skyrocketing for the past few years,” he said.

“People do need help and it’s a reality,” said Flaherty of Winder. “We try to help people maintain their dignity while giving them assistance.”

He added: “With the Jackson EMC Foundation grant, we can do more to help more people. It’s a real blessing.”

The Jackson EMC Foundation recently awarded $10,000 grants to each of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Society conferences in Winder, Jefferson and Flowery Branch.

The grant for the Flowery Branch conference will help its Aid Hot Line program, which provides emergency aid to South Hall, North Gwinnett and West Jackson families in crisis for rent, mortgage and temporary housing to prevent homelessness and disrupted lives. The Gainesville grant will help fund direct aid for housing assistance, including rent, mortgage and temporary housing for Hall County families in crisis. The Jackson County grant will help its financial assistance program that provides funds to Jackson and Banks County families in crisis for rent, mortgage, food, transportation, car repair and insurance premiums, and medical assistance.

The grant for the Barrow County conference will help its financial assistance program that provides funds to Barrow County families in crisis for rent, mortgage and food.

For information, including how to request support, visit svdpgeorgia.org.