GREENVILLE—The temporary closure of parishes across the diocese hasn’t slowed the work of St. Vincent de Paul societies, though some adjustments have been implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The societies, which assist the most vulnerable in communities they serve, have been directed by the national conference to amend their normal face-to-face assistance, and adopt social distancing and remote responses to individual requests and needs.
“In these unprecedented times, SVdP is shifting our service model from personalized face-to-face service to meeting basic needs while social distancing,” the society said in a prepared statement posted to its website. “We are tailoring our services to meet the unique needs of all the communities we serve.”
Two of the larger Upstate parishes, Prince of Peace in Taylors and St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, continue to provide services to the at-risk populations they serve, though the level of that service has been adjusted since Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone announced parish closures March 11.
The Prince of Peace society has been shut down since March 16, said Simone Imber, conference president.
“We did over-the-phone interviews the first week of shut down, for some utility bills that we promised to pay,” she explained.
Imber said the volume of service has dropped significantly since the parish closures were implemented.
“We normally serve 15-17 people each Monday. Now we have served a total of 18 people from March 16th to April 6th,” he said.
Phone calls have also fallen. Numbers that typically average 200 a month this time of the year have dropped to a handful. Some days they have no calls, Imber said.
The Prince of Peace conference has also seen a recent drop in monetary donations, forcing it to shift its focus to delivering “food only,” Imber said. They offer drive-up pick-up and delivery to residences, which is dropped off at a person’s front door or porch.
“We are trying not to turn anybody down that is in need, but we take the safety of our volunteers and the people in need very seriously,” Imber said.
Valerie Schonewald, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Mary Magdalene, said they continue to serve clients with health or transportation issues by delivering food boxes to them each week. Each parcel includes a list of locations of other pantries in the area, she said.
The pantry typically serves around 150 individuals and families, a figure Schonewald said has risen as the number of furloughs and layoffs increase, and local businesses remain closed. It’s a challenge the conference and its parish will meet, she said.
Schonewald said they recently responded to the parish’s Hispanic Outreach, which saw a three-fold increase in the number of families in need of food.
“We thank God that they are able to reach out to our community in this way and that we are able to serve,” she said. “Our parishioners have been absolutely a blessing to us as they continue to donate non-perishables to the food pantry. They have taken to heart the corporal work of mercy of feeding the hungry. They are our partners in our mission to serve the needy, not only of our parish but of all Greenville County.”
For more information about the St. Vincent De Paul Society or to make a donation, contact your local parish or visit: https://www.svdpusa.org/Assistance-Services.