JONESBORO -- With a troubled economy come families on the brink of disaster. What a nice surprise and a great start when the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro recently received a $10,000 grant from the Centimark Foundation to help local families get back on their feet.
"I didn't expect the check, but it is a great jumpstart to our program and greatly appreciated," Steve Hecht, an employee of Centimark Inc. and a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, said.
The gift from Centimark, a roofing company based in Pittsburgh, will support the Good Samaritan Ministry administered by the St. Vincent de Paul members, Hecht said.
Hecht said he moved to Jonesboro about a year ago and became involved with the St. Vincent de Paul council.
"My company has been a supporter of the local Pittsburgh St. Vincent de Paul groups since 1968," Hecht said.
"As I saw the need here for help, I went back to my company to see what or if they could help," he said. "I never thought we'd get the size of check we did."
On average the Good Samaritan program awards families $300 to $500 for assistance with utilities, rent, medications or transportation repairs, Bobbye Puryear, president of the St. Vincent de Paul council, said.
"What this grant enables us to do is help people with a higher dollar need," Puryear said. "There are guidelines and this is truly meant as a one-time assistance for people who have gotten behind for whatever reason."
Applications are given out through the Blessed Sacrament Church office.
"This program takes more time and more money because we are dealing with larger expenses such as medication, car payment or repairs or rent," Hecht said.
Puryear said the Good Samaritan Ministry is different from the funds used weekly to assist individuals and families with small amounts under $75 for various needs.
Hecht said the Good Samaritan program is geared to families with children who have lost employment.
So far, seven Catholic families in Jonesboro have been helped, but the funds can be used to assist non-Catholic families in the surrounding areas.
"We've had 12 applicants and been able to assist seven with immediate needs," Hecht said. "They all qualified because they lost jobs with no notice. They are all families who were doing well, but just got into problems."
One client, Betty, was given money for her rent.
"With only a few days left before I was to be evicted from my home, two volunteers from the Good Samaritan Ministry knocked on my door and visited with me and my landlord and presented her with a check for my past due rent. I was amazed and shocked that they actually were going to help me get back on my feet. I truly believe God sent those volunteers. To show my appreciation I will continue to pray for their ministry and the work they do."
Another client, Amanda, said she will be "forever grateful" for the assistance.
"It seems like God has always answered my prayers. This time it was through the kindness and financial support of the St Vincent De Paul ministry that totally changed the direction of our family's lives."
Puryear said applications are reviewed by a four-person committee who recommends the type and amount of assistance to the full council membership.
The committee looks at families first and the cause for their need, Hecht said.
"Disability, lost job, lay off, illness, single mom, all areas are considered," Hecht said. "We call creditors or landlords on behalf of the applicants. Many times we are able to get the applicant an extension, which may be all they need."
Funds are disbursed directly to creditors or landlords and the committee works with the families to follow-up and help a family get back on steady ground, Hecht said.
He said the committee members will often make home visits in order to maintain confidentiality and to pray with them, showing support for their situation.
"To me that is the most satisfying part, to see the program working," Hecht said. "It is a good feeling."
He said the group is developing a newsletter for supporters and hopes to expand the program with the help of additional financial supporters. Currently, the group is limited to the funds from the Centimark Foundation.
"When we're out of funds, we're out of funds," Hecht said.
Puryear said not including the grant for the Good Samaritan program, the council spends about $20,000 a year assisting families in need through regular operating funds, which are collected through the church.
Donations can be sent to Good Samaritan Ministry, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Blessed Sacrament Church, 614 South Church Street, Jonesboro, AR 72401.
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