Vincentians help friends in need
By Laurie Hallstrom
In 2015, representatives of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul visited the Diocese of Rapid City at the invitation of then-Bishop Robert Gruss. In 2022, there are five SVdP conferences with a combined total of 73 members. (See below for names and phone numbers.)
In Lead, Mary DeMarcus is the spiritual advisor for the St. Patrick/St. Ambrose Conference and the council president for the five conferences. She explained the conference is first a spiritual organization and members meet twice monthly to pray. Once a year the conferences combine to offer home visitation training.
“We like to visit people in their homes,” she said. “We call them ‘friends’ to let them know they are not just another number.” The SVdP members go in teams of two to visit people. Often a person will request help with one need — as an example rent — then the team will observe they need help in other areas, such as food, clothing, or furniture. Help is not limited to Catholics. It is offered to all who need it. The society does not proselytize, but if asked about their faith they will share.
To avoid duplication of services the SVdP Conferences informs friends regarding other area organizations offering energy assistance or food distribution. The society distributes smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and helps with insulation.
No money changes hands, but with the permission of the friend, the society pays utilities directly. Also, vouchers are issued for gas or clothing. The society operates the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Spearfish. The store has flourished to the point it distributed $100,000 to area conferences last year.
Another line of help is computer assistance. Enrolling in Social Security is largely done online. Friends may not have access to secure computers, or they may not know how to operate them. In Lead, the society has computers set up in a classroom to help people applying for government benefits. The government prefers to pay by direct deposit and some friends need help setting up checking accounts.
“We do not set limits on how much help we can offer friends,” said DeMarcus. To donate, receive assistance or volunteer call the listed number and leave a message.
Is the SVdP society making a difference? Here are the 2021 figures by conference, number of people helped, and money spent: St. Patrick/St. Ambrose, 265, $23,467; St. Joseph/St. Paul, 530 $60,193; St. Francis/St. Mary, 351, $19,670; Our Lady of the Black Hills, 115, $13,266; Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 795, $34,658.
To donate, get help, or volunteer
Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Conference 605-718-5869 — Rapid City area
Our Lady of the Black Hills Conference 605-389-6739 — Black Hawk, Summerset, Piedmont
St. Joseph/St. Paul Conference 605-269-0676 — Spearfish, Belle Fourche
St. Francis/St. Mary Conference 605-519-8583 — Sturgis, Newell
St. Patrick/St. Ambrose Conference 605-717-6860 — Lead, Deadwood