Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Stephanie Brown understands what it feels like to need help.
“We were helped out by the Church one time,” she said, “and now we want to help out.”
That was why Brown — doing her first benefit walk ever, she said — was among the 120 people participating in central Virginia’s first St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) Society one-mile Friends of the Poor Walk, Saturday, Oct. 7, on the grounds of St. Michael the Archangel Church, Glen Allen.
A Vincentian — the term used to describe a member of a St. Vincent de Paul conference — Brown is among her parish’s conference members who make visits to the homes of those in need. At the core of Vincentian service, home visits are done by two-member teams, of which there are 12 at St. Michael the Archangel.
“We’ve been helped so we really know what people are going through,” she said of her home visit experience.
With money from walkers and other donors, the event raised more than $11,000, which will be used to assist 54 families in western Henrico County with rent assistance, help with utility bills and other needs, according to Dan Kearns, president of the conference.
Kearns, who moved to the area from Florida a year and a half ago, was looking for a way to get involved an St. Michael the Archangel Parish when he accidently came upon an SVDP informational meeting, listened, and joined.
“It’s an amazing organization, a great way to help people,” he said.
The conference formed in 2016 and started seeing clients this year.
Roger Roldan, who joined the parish after moving from Guatemala a year and a half ago, said he admired the “spirit of cooperation” exhibited by the Vincentians.
“People are eager to help in whatever way possible,” he said.
Deacon Andy Cirmo, spiritual advisor for the conference, hopes five or six more conferences will be established in the Richmond area.
“The need is so huge,” he said. “It will take work to do it; the pastors are the ones who are going to make it happen.”
Kearns added, “The more conferences we have in Richmond, the more we can do.”
SVDP conferences also serve Virginia Beach and Roanoke.
Kearns said the service Vincentians provide to clients is “not just handing them a check,” but rather “walking with them in Christ.”
“We see the face of Christ in those we serve,” he said.