You might not hear about the St. Vincent de Paul Society too often — partly because the organization does not advertise — but it has been around. The society has a 200-year history that dates back to the French Revolution, born out of a need to provide for those in Paris going without food.
Newton's chapter hasn't been around quite that long, coming up on the start of its sixth year in the community, but it has found a role to fill as well.
"We are involved in helping people with their rent and utilities based upon what we learn from them," said Evelyn Stabler, Newton chapter president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. "We have home visits. We go in twos; we go to visit their home. After we get our referral, we talk about what they need and so on, and then we have the home visit."
After such visits, members of the society vote collectively on whether to provide financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. So far, in the current fiscal year, the society has helped provide over $10,100 in rent assistance and $15,580 in utility assistance, along with more than $1,400 for food needs and $2,900 for other services — having visited 208 homes and served more than 500 individuals.
Being a Catholic organization, Stabler noted that each home visit starts with a prayer — something that has never been turned down and often becomes a wonderful experience for both parties as they enter into a mutually beneficial relationship.
Starting out as a Newton-based organization, the local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society now serves all Harvey County communities, according to Stabler. While she was not a part of the original group to form the Newton chapter, she said, she was quickly drawn to be a part of the group's mission — both given her career history as a social worker and her own experiences being in a similar position to those the society serves.
"In all my own life, I was in that place of poverty as a single parent with four kids. If it hadn't been for my parents, I don't know what would've happened to us, but my parents were just so very helpful in getting me up off of my feet and getting directed in other parts of the community. I found out how important the community really was in helping each other; it's one of the things I learned from my own life experience," Stabler said. "We help each other. It's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. That's part of how we work together and learn to work with other people, because everybody is different."
Fostered by the model set forth by her parents, Stabler has embraced the idea of building each other up as a community — something she said her children, nieces and nephews have adopted as well in getting out and giving back to the community. On top of working with the society, she also serves as a member of the board of directors for New Hope Shelter and offers her services as an organist at St. Mary Catholic Church.
Within the society, not only do members work as a team to provide financial assistance to community members in need, but they also work together to raise funds towards their mission. Annual efforts like a dessert raffle and golf tournament help make it so the society can help others — with a lot of effort put into both by the entire membership.
That work pays off in the long run and is not forgotten, whether it's helping those in need with rent, groceries (for specific diets, given the three food pantries already established in town) or something as simple as singing sessions with inmates as part of the society's jail ministry.
On one particular home visit, Stabler noted a neighbor called out for "The Voice," as she found out she was referred to by the inmates. He quickly briefed her on his progress after getting out of jail, which she said is the ultimate reward for St. Vincent de Paul Society members helping their clientele.
"You're getting some feedback that their lives are progressing well. That really helps when we know that they've gone on from what we started them with," Stabler said. "I think what's really most important is that there's always hope in this world. Sometimes we have to go through rough times to find which way we're going in our life because life isn't easy. It really feels good when we can see that somebody has made a success of themselves."
For more information on the St. Vincent de Paul Society, visit https://stmarynewton.org/st-vincent-de-paul.