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Dear Fellow Parishioners:

On behalf of the St. Thomas More (STM) Chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), it is with a grateful heart for your generosity that I share this report on the Chapter’s efforts to assist the working poor in our neighboring communities impacted by the COVID – 19 crisis. Due to the harsh effects of the crisis on the working poor, there have been multiple challenges faced by many in our community to maintain their fragile stability. Many of our neighbors lost their jobs and did not qualify for unemployment or stimulus. Respecting the dignity of each person, SVdP brings hope and help to those in need so they may again achieve stability and move back toward self-sufficiency. Through your generous contributions, the STM Chapter of SVdP has provided approximately $26,500 (Twenty-Six Thousand Five Hundred Dollars) in direct assistance to nearly 60 persons and families, each of whom was put on the edge of poverty and financial ruin as a result of the crisis. These include numerous single parents raising children, families with children, veterans, and the elderly. Each of these neighbors, from every religion, race, and background, who called on us for help had a unique story to tell.

All of the individuals and families we have assisted during the COVID – 19 crisis were significantly adversely impacted in the pandemic. Here is a “snapshot” of the assistance your generosity has made possible. This assistance has included: rent and utility assistance for approximately 27 individuals and families to prevent evictions and loss of utilities; Food Pantry deliveries for multiple families; approximately $1,000 in Kroger Food Cards distributed to various individuals and families; bed frames, mattresses and bedding for a family that had been sleeping on the floor for six months and had never had new (unused) bedding before; bed frames, mattresses and bedding for another family sleeping on the floor for three months (this family will also soon receive furniture from the Furniture Bank); medical assistance support for families; transportation assistance (including car payments, gas cards, and car insurance) for families whose primary wage earners needed assistance to continue working; and over 1,000 pounds of food donated and delivered to the Food Bank.

For those not familiar with how SVdP operates, we share this brief review. SVdP is an international organization of lay women and men inspired by the Gospel to provide direct service to the poor. It serves in five continents and 152 locations with over 800,000 volunteers creating a vast network of charity throughout the world. Vincentians are the volunteers who, from all walks of life, and from every age group and ethnic background, are committed to the SVdP’s mission<https://www.svdpgeorgia.org/who-we-are/mission-vision/> – growing spiritually through person-to-person help to anyone in need regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation. SVdP Georgia is the statewide network of over 5,000 volunteers which provides coordinated assistance to people in need throughout the state since 1903. SVdP Georgia operates 72 local Chapters, four Family Support Centers , 40 Food Pantries, 13 Thrift Stores, and one Conference Support Center united by the goal of preventing homelessness, fighting hunger and changing lives for the most vulnerable populations.

Each year, hundreds of neighbors from every religion, race, and background in our own community call or email our STM Chapter. Calls are screened by our Parish volunteer intake screeners who provide hope, help, and resources to these neighbors in need. These volunteers return the calls to obtain initial information, make appropriate referrals to other agencies who may be able to assist, or to set an appointment for a home visit with one of our Parish volunteer caseworkers. Home visits are at the heart of what SVdP does. These person-to-person visits are what make SVdP unique and distinguishes us from other social service agencies. During the COVID – 19 crisis, most home visits have been done virtually or by telephone. The assistance is tailored to each person’s needs and may include food, clothing, rent, utility, transportation, furniture, medical, emotional, or spiritual support. The SVdP Support Centers, operated by staff and volunteers, supplement the work of the home visit and provide food pantries, thrift stores, eligibility screening for government benefits, educational programs, and more. Once the home visit is completed, the details are recorded in a confidential electronic record management system. If financial assistance is needed, our Chapter Treasurer will pay the appropriate vendor. Follow up calls are placed a few weeks later to see how they are progressing on their plan and to offer encouragement.

Anyone needing assistance can be directed to call the SVdP Direct Aid Line at 678-892-6163. Parishioners in need of help should call the Parish Office as well as identifying themselves as a STM Parishioner on the Direct Aid Line.

At STM, a second collection is utilized once per month to support the STM Chapter of SVdP. During this pandemic, Parishioners are encouraged to use the online giving function at the Parish website (stmgaparish.org). In addition, SVdP collection dates are marked on the envelopes sent home to Parishioners and generally announced in the Parish Bulletin, Parish emails, and the Parish website the week before the collection. Parishioners can also mail envelopes to St. Thomas More Church, 636 W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030, OR drop an envelope/donation in the mail bin at the front door of the Rectory. We also host food and clothing drives throughout the year which are announced in the Parish Bulletin, emails, and website. To learn more about SVdP at STM or to volunteer, please contact Cheryl Parellada at stm.svdp@gmail.com or please join us at our fellowship meetings at 9:30 on the first Sunday of each month in the Teachers Lounge located at the back of Mulhern Hall (being done via ZOOM during COVID – 19). If you want to learn more about SVdP, feel free to visit www.svdpgeorgia.org.

We hope this report assures you that your kindness, caring, and generosity are having a big impact on the lives of the most vulnerable neighbors in our community who are poor, struggling, or otherwise in crisis during this pandemic. May God bless you.

Cheryl Parellada
STM Chapter President