November 16, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 270

St. Vincent de Paul eyes new approach to helping needy

Possible strategies include home visits, budgeting help

ONTONAGON — The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Ontonagon has assisted more than 400 families in the past year to the tune of $30,000.

Helen Hoefferle, of the St. Vincent de Paul Society board, told Ontonagon Rotarians that the National St. Vincent de Paul Society is taking a new approach in its efforts to help those in need. She explained that the new approach is an effort to get people to be more self-sustaining.

It includes home visits, help in referring to jobs and budgeting. In the past just giving out money was “like putting bandage on cancer — we have to do more,” she said.

Hoefferle noted that Ontonagon County is large and these efforts will require more volunteers to assist.

She also expressed concern about how some people will get through the coming winter. She explained that the month of the government shutdown delayed assistance checks.

People sought and received money from St. Vincent’s, but Hoefferle explained that they only can get that money once a year.

Hoefferle said there are grants people can get to help with their utilities, but the key is they must pay $50 a month on the bill. She continued that since the utilities are not cut off in the winter, many people pay nothing all winter and have large bills in the spring.

Hoefferle said that if people paid that $50 a month, the grant money would be enough to take care of most of the rest. She said she has not applied for a grant since no one seems interested in paying the $50.

Hoefferle is also involved in the food pantry and St. Nicholas Project. She explained that the drop in population in the county can readily been seen in the numbers.

This year, the St. Nicholas Project has 20 fewer families and 30 fewer children on the list of those who need help at Christmas.

The food pantry is open five days a week and appointments can be made by calling the store. The food pantry served 250 families in the past year. She said the pantry has a good supply of food, and with the canathon will be in good shape for the holidays and beyond. “We depend on the generosity of the people and have never been disappointed,” she said.

The organizations need more volunteers. Hoefferle said the money taken in from the store and donations is spent to help others. “We are all volunteers and need more,” she said.