Faith Partners for Progress: Catholics Charities of North Louisiana and Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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by Bonnie Martinez

 The Western District Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been awarded a $5,000 systemic change grant by the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. The grant entitled Faith Partners for Progress, is a collaborative venture with Catholic Charities of North Louisiana.St. Vincent de Paul has been referring individuals to Catholic Charities of North Louisiana’s (CCNLA) Financial Education Program, Money School, for many years because of the numerous benefits afforded to those in financial crisis. The Money School offers low-income individuals an opportunity to learn how to better manage their income. The three-hour class teaches participants how to create an individual budget, open and maintain a bank account, begin a savings account, decrease unnecessary spending and how to avoid predatory lenders.

Participants are then scheduled to attend a one-on-one session with one of the Money School case managers to receive individualized coaching based on the financial documentation provided by the individual requesting financial assistance. The individual is guided to self-determination of their financial status and is then assisted in preparing a personalized Goal Document that identifies the necessary action for the individual to improve their financial status and quality of life. However, the missing component has been follow-up and mentoring for the individual having completed this process.

Catholic Charities recognizes that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conducts personal home visits with those they serve. So, the leadership of both local organizations, including guidance provided by St. Vincent de Paul’s National Director of Poverty Programs, began the discussion and planning for this joint venture.

A pilot program began in late 2016 that included one Western District St. Vincent de Paul Conference – Mary, Queen of Peace – and Catholic Charities’ Money School. The pilot program’s main objective was to define a long-term strategy that includes an 18-month follow-up mentoring by Vincentians for identified friends in need. Two paths of collaboration between St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities were identified and approved for serving friends/families in need: (1) First-time friend/family in need requesting financial assistance in excess of the amount either non-profit can spend on one person/family and (2) Repeat financial assistance requests from a friend/family in need.

CCNLA and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul jointly participated in mentor training in November 2017. The steps of the collaborative venture were outlined and the process for sharing documentation between the two organizations was defined. Vincentians conducting home visits will identify individuals as candidates for the Faith Partners for Progress process and refer them to Catholic Charities’ Money School. Upon successful completion of the Money School process, Vincentians will follow-up with the friend/family in need in a mentoring role to provide on-going support and guidance.

The grant proceeds of $5,000 will be used to affect the lives of approximately 25 people. Faith Partners for Progress is a project designed to “move people permanently out of poverty by empowering them to make life changes and improve their lives.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and CCNLA continually strive to be good stewards of your generous donations and sincerely appreciate your support of our ministries to serve the poor, both financially and resourcefully.  •

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