No need to walk in the the annual Friends of the Poor Walk, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 25, as a fundraiser for families in need in Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Cottonwood Shores, and Granite Shoals.
Last year, the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference provided more than $161,000 to Highland Lakes residents who needed help paying their bills. Larry Stahl, president of the St. John/St. Paul/St. Charles conference, explained that people can simply make donations online rather than walk.
“Every bit of the donations stay within our local communities,” he said.
Last year, the conference touched the lives of more than 500 local families. This year, the conference is expanding to include the Sunrise Beach Village and Kingsland area. With that expansion will come more requests for assistance, Stahl said.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which started in Paris, France, 186 years ago and came to the United States 10 years later, is a Catholic lay organization that serves the poor, suffering, and those in need. It has about 800,000 worldwide volunteers with around 100,000 in the United States. Stahl said the Diocese of Austin, which the local conference is part of, has about 1,000 volunteers working alongside those in need.
While financial support is part of the society’s mission, Vincentians make closer connections with the people they serve through the Home Visit. It’s a chance to support people through friendship, prayer, and listening.
During the Home Visit, Vincentians work in pairs.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Visit often became a phone call. While not as effective as a face-to-face visit, Stahl said it proved useful, and it’s something the local conference will use when necessary, especially as it reaches out to the Kingsland area.
The local Vincentians get about 15-20 calls a week for assistance, some through other local organizations such as the Community Resource Centers of Texas.
The financial support can be for a number of things, including utility bills, medicine or medical bills, or even getting a car fixed so the person can get to work, Stahl added.
Three local churches — St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Marble Falls, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Horseshoe Bay, and the Church at Horseshoe Bay — provide monthly support for the local Vincentians’ efforts. Stahl said the organization also receives grant funding.
Still, the annual Walk for the Poor provides a good donation boost for local efforts.
In past years, the local group held an actual walk, but turnout was rather low. Organizers decided to move away from a walking event, and go virtual where people can make online donations. Yet, if someone wants to go for a walk Saturday and make a donation to the Vincentians, it would be a blessing as well.