For the volunteers who field hundreds of calls each month from people in desperate need of emergency assistance, their work is more than a community outreach. For these volunteers in Catholic parishes throughout Louisville, Central Kentucky, and Southern Indiana, the charitable work becomes part of their daily lives as well as a part of their identity.
“In helping the poor and homeless, these dedicated adults believe they are living out their vocation,” says Donna Young, director of conference affairs and volunteer services for St. Vincent de Paul Louisville.
The Vincentians, as they’re known, are volunteers who are trained to provide person-to-person assistance to families and individuals in crisis in their communities. The churches are organized into 43 St. Vincent de Paul Conferences. Find a parish near you.
Whether it’s help with mortgage or rent payments to prevent eviction and homelessness, or emergency financial assistance for groceries or past-due utility bills, SVDP’s conferences are the lifeblood of our charitable outreach. They offer a crucial safety net for thousands of people with nowhere else to turn.
Unlike SVDP’s Shelby Park-area campus near downtown, where services such as our Open Hand Kitchen, Food Pantry, and the Family Success Center may be better known to the general public than the efforts being undertaken daily at the parish level, the conferences’ work is carried out quietly and behind the scenes. This approach is designed to maintain confidentiality. “I wish I could make the Louisville community aware of the impact that Vincentians have on our city” Young explained.
Last year, SVDP Conferences contributed $2 million in assistance to people working to overcome poverty. “Rent, utilities, food, and clothing are only a small part of the assistance they provide for those in need,” Young said. “The real value comes from the home visits these volunteers make to bring hope to people in need.”
In fact, St. Vincent de Paul is the No. 1 source for referrals from our Metro’s 2-1-1 help line.
The nonjudgmental concern, compassion, along with offers of prayers and support, are hallmarks of the Vincentian home visit. In addition to providing resources to meet the basic needs of those who are suffering, Vincentians strive for their own spiritual growth, drawing inspiration from Vincent de Paul, a Franciscan priest who devoted much of his life to serving the poor.
“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor,” St. Vincent de Paul said. “I belong to God and to the poor.”
Without the services and financial support of St. Vincent de Paul, other local agencies and government services would be overextended and hard-pressed to meet the demands of the number of people seeking financial and other assistance, Young said.
“I hate to think of the increased number of homeless and hungry people that would be sleeping on the streets of Louisville without our Conferences’ support,” Young said. “The St. Vincent de Paul conferences are an important part of the Louisville community,” she added. “Vincentians do not like to boast, but their works of mercy need to be shared with the community.”