St. Vincent de Paul effort seeks to help needy with food, winter heating costs
Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis quietly answer calls made each year from thousands of people who reach out for help.
They rely on the generosity of others who share the blessings they have received.
Currently the Society is seeking donations for the Food and Fuel for Life program. Winter is a time when funds especially are needed as people in need seek to keep warm and put food on the table.
Robert Vogel, director of development and partnership programs for the Society, stated that high heating bills mean that families are forced to make hard choices about spending for food, utility bills and medications. The Energy Information Administration expects the average household heating with propane will spend as much as $2,979 (up 9 percent); natural gas $744 (up 3 percent); and electricity, $956 (down 1 percent).
Fewer federal funds are likely to be available to agencies to assist low-income households.
The federal government for 30 years has funded home heating cost subsidies to help older adults and low-income residents stay warm in their homes. Funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was sliced from $4.7 billion last year to $2.57 billion for 2012, cutting off thousands of people from receiving home heating aid. Missouri has received about $95 million annually in block grants and could see that amount cut in half.
The St. Vincent de Paul program helps supply 83 food pantries and more than 140 parish-based conferences staffed by volunteers who seek to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to others in need. Contributing to the program helps struggling families "fill their shelves with food and pay some critical utility bills, bringing a little comfort back into their lives," Vogel noted.
"Every day we have dozens of people call us looking for assistance with utility bills because they are in danger of having their heat turned off or their water turned off. Every situation is different, but sometimes people get in arrears and can't get caught up," he said.
The situation becomes more acute as the weather gets colder, he added.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis provides assistance in five key areas: crisis intervention; housing; criminal justice ministry; transportation services; health services.
For information see svdpstlouis.org or call (314) 881-6035. Contributions can be sent to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis, 100 N. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103-2207.
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