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Floodwater from the Mississippi River inundate Foley in early June. St. Vincent de Paul conferences and Catholic Charities of St. Louis are working to assist flood victims.
Floodwater from the Mississippi River inundate Foley in early June. St. Vincent de Paul conferences and Catholic Charities of St. Louis are working to assist flood victims.
Photo Credit: Scott Olson | Getty Images

Catholic agencies supporting flood-relief efforts

St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Charities address long-term needs

Catholics of the archdiocese are helping with the immediate needs of victims of flooding in the St. Louis area and are making plans to assist with long-term needs.

At Sacred Heart Parish in Elsberry, “we are open to anyone in our area, Foley, Winfield or anywhere in our boundaries, Catholic or not, who are having trouble,” said Father Charles Tichacek, pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Alphonsus Parish in Millwood.

Some of the people forced to leave their homes in those Lincoln County areas are staying with friends and family members who live on higher ground, he said. Others are staying at a shelter operated temporarily by the Red Cross at Winfield High School.

Volunteers from his parish conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are reaching out to people and are gearing up to provide enhanced services once the river recedes, Father Tichacek said.

Floodwaters entered Immaculate Conception Church in West Alton around the time the building was canonically removed from use as a sacred space. Some sacred objects, such as the altar, will be removed when the water recedes.
Photo Credits: Deacon Bill Twellman
Sacred Heart Parish in Elsberry is planning a parish picnic June 23, so they’re hoping the flooding is over by then. But, Father Tichacek said, “helping the people is more important than the picnic.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis already sent $5,000 to the conference in Elsberry and elsewhere is providing families displaced by floodwaters with emergency, temporary lodging in nearby hotels. Catholic Charities of St. Louis is preparing to provide clean-up kits and other immediate assistance. Both the Society and Catholic Charities are prepared to help people further down the road as well.

Some displaced families are finding shelter in high school gymnasiums, sleeping on cots or in state park camps, and others are living in various temporary situations, according to a statement from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis. “We want to help families find a more secure short-term solution,” stated Annette Bligh, chairwoman of the Society’s Disaster Relief Committee. “Our conferences are organizing ways to place people in hotels and feed them.”

Water levels were falling the second week of June, with major flooding along the Mississippi River and a part of the Meramec River according to the National Weather Service. The weather service predicts a greater than 50 percent chance of river levels over flood stage into August.

An area Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) is expected to be organized by the Red Cross, according to the Catholic agencies. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities will participate in the collaboration of agencies providing assistance to disaster victims.

At a MARC, volunteers assess and provide for needs ranging from short to longer term. These needs may include lodging, food, water, transportation, prescription assistance, clothing, household goods, mattresses and furniture.

Catholic Charities “will also be prepared to assist with long-term disaster case management to aid in identification of resources to recover and financial aid for unmet needs,” said Tyrone Ford, director of service integration for Catholic Charities of St. Louis.

The Red Cross will determine if and when a MARC occurs, based on the amount of damage and people affected, Ford noted. Following that, an agency can request their county’s Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), usually led by the county’s emergency management director or designate; activate a long-term recovery committee which is used to provide a forum for agencies to provide services to those affected; and review and approve requests to fund an unmet need for those affected.

Society of St. Vincent de Paul staff in St. Louis wrote in a statement that each disaster has lasting effects, both to people and property. Victims of disasters such as this flood may feel frustrated and hopeless, they noted.

“While they may come looking for physical or financial help, they also need spiritual and emotional support. It’s a gift we, as Vincentian volunteers, can offer them,” said John Heithaus, director of Vincentian Services for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis.

John Foppe, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis, said, “We want our neighbors to first meet the compassionate and loving face of Jesus.”

At the end of May, Society of St. Vincent de Paul representatives from St. Louis traveled to Jefferson City, Mo., and participated in a MARC, organized to help victims of a tornado there on May 22. Assistance in was given to 381 families. Local Jefferson City St. Vincent de Paul conference volunteers will follow up with each family to determine longer-term needs and provide assistance.

How to help

To make a donation for disaster relief:

>> Catholic Charities

• Visit www.ccstl.org/donate and choose Disaster Relief Fund from the drop-down menu.

• Or mail a check to:

Catholic Charities

Disaster Relief Fund

P.O. Box 952393

St. Louis MO 63195-2393

Donors may designate a specific location in the memo section, or Catholic Charities will direct the funds to where the need is greatest.

>> Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Donations for Neighbors in Need and disaster victims are accepted by phone at (314) 881-6035 or on the nonprofit’s website, www.svdpstlouis.org/donate.

Victims of the recent flooding who need help are encouraged to call the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s assistance line, 2-1-1. The assistance line is managed by the United Way which will register persons or families needing help and direct them to their local St. Vincent de Paul conference for assistance.

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