Fall 2019

Society of St. Vincent de Paul: Grants from Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund Help Tornado Victims Make a ‘Fresh Start’

When tornadoes strike, the financial and emotional toll it can take on individuals in the path of destruction can be overwhelming. For people who already were struggling, getting back on their feet after a disaster often goes beyond rebuilding damaged homes or replacing personal belongings.

Volunteers make deliveries for House in a Box, a Society of St. Vincent
de Paul program that supplies furniture and furnishings to help tornado
victims get back on their feet.

“Losing a home is devastating, particularly for the numerous households affected by the Memorial Day tornadoes that did not have home or renter’s insurance,” said Michael Vanderburgh, executive director for St. Vincent de Paul. “Recovery looks different for everyone, but for those who lost everything, it is a long process. Insurance and government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), play an important role in recovery, but local nonprofit agencies like St. Vincent de Paul are vital for filling the gaps in support.”

St. Vincent de Paul, which mobilized in the hours after the tornadoes struck, already has worked to help more than 2,000 individuals impacted by the storms. In the early stages of relief work, it delivered food to American Red Cross shelters, staffed the Montgomery County Volunteer Reception Center and assisted tornado survivors at the Multi-Agency Resource and Family Assistance Centers. As efforts shifted to long-term recovery, St. Vincent de Paul provided one-to-one support, maintained a supportive presence at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers and offered its warehouse as the designated Montgomery County drop-off location for in-kind donations.

“Thanks to this support, we are giving [tornado victims] a fresh start in their long road to recovery.”
– Michael Vanderburgh, executive director, St. Vincent de Paul

In the weeks after the tornado hit, the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund (GDDRF) of The Dayton Foundation quickly distributed $102,000 in grants to St. Vincent de Paul to assist tornado victims with immediate and long-term needs.

“The grants from the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund helped us in the early days of the disaster response,” Michael said. “We were able to purchase Meijer and Kroger gift cards immediately and distribute them to individuals and families who lost their clothing, food, and/or employment.”

To address the long-term recovery needs of impacted families, St. Vincent also used GDDRF funds to purchase 40 Houses in a Box, a program that supplies furniture and furnishings to families that have lost everything because of a disaster. The starter household furniture kits include items such as linens, dishes, silverware, bathroom necessities, as well as a dinette, a couch, bedroom furniture and more.

Thanks to The Dayton Foundation’s grant,
40 Houses in a Box were purchased for local

Steve Bowen is a volunteer for Declare Dayton, a nonprofit organization that is working with St. Vincent de Paul to distribute the Houses in a Box to tornado victims. He says that while everyone’s story is different, there also are similarities.

“A lot of our deliveries are to people who lost everything. Most of them are so grateful, and it makes them feel better to pick out their own furniture,” Steve said. “We like to say we are focused on the people first and the furniture second. We don’t just make deliveries. We are here to listen to their stories and help them in their time of need.”

“Houses in a Box helps alleviate the situational poverty a family or individual experiences after a natural disaster, but the long-term recovery of people affected by the Memorial Day tornadoes could take several years,” Michael added. “The grants we received from GDDRF and the generous outpouring we have received from the community has helped address the short and long-term needs of our affected neighbors. Thanks to this support, we are giving them a fresh start in their long road to recovery.”

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File date: 10.6.19
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