SVdP forum to focus on social justice for poor, vulnerable

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — To highlight the need for impactful social service programs to assist the poor and vulnerable in the Attleboro area, the Voice of the Poor Committee of the Attleboro District Society of St. Vincent de Paul is inviting area residents to its third Legislative Forum with state senators and representatives on Saturday, February 10 at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of Bristol Community College in Attleboro.

Senator Feeney and Representatives Jay Barrows, Steve Hewitt, and Betty Poirer have already confirmed their participation, and others are expected to join as well.

They will answer questions and discuss legislation and public policies impacting the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in this area, explained Diana Reeves, chairman of the District’s Voice of the Poor Committee for Social Justice. “Given all the ominous indications about significant cutbacks in social safety net programs, this will be an important conversation” Reeves said, during which the concerns and needs of the area can “be fleshed out. These are programs which help make our community compassionate and mark it as a caring place for our neighbors in need who are the most vulnerable among us.”

Throughout the Greater Attleboro area, SVdP volunteers known as Vincentians provide various forms of charitable aid to persons in need ― short-term financial assistance for rent, utilities, transportation, food, clothing, furniture and other household needs. Unlike many other organizations, Vincentians typically meet individuals in need in their own homes to offer a listening ear and to learn first-hand about their unique needs. Attleboro District Vincentians also operate food pantries and a second-hand clothing store.

In addition to the aid they provide, District President Mary Dwyer said Vincentians seek to be a “voice for and with the poor.” She added that “often our marginalized and vulnerable friends feel powerless in trying to bring out meaningful changes in public policy that could really help them help themselves. The Legislative Forum is also an attempt to assist the poor to find their voices by giving their input to their elected representatives.

The Attleboro District SVdP also develops responsive anti-poverty programs to effect systemic change, said Reeves and Dwyer. They offered examples such as the district’s “Getting Ahead While Just Getting By” program, a 16-week self-help course; its work assisting Bristol House of Correction ex-offenders successfully reintegrate into the community; a pilot ride program for those in need who are temporarily without transportation for critical health services, education or employment; and an “under-development” micro-loan program for those who have lost their credit-worthiness but have earning capacity and a renewed determination to  reach financial stability.

“What we want to do at this Legislative Forum,” said Reeves, “is make sure our elected officials see the need and understand — to essentially be the lobby for the poor and the marginalized. But we need help and input from the whole community to do that effectively and make this area the kind of place we all want it to be — one concerned about our brothers and sisters in need and willing to act accordingly.”

Aid given directly to those in need by the Attleboro area Vincentians as well as the district’s anti-poverty programs are funded by donations from area Catholic Church parishioners, local businesses and corporations, and generous individual supporters.

On Saturday, April 7, the district will hold its major community-wide “Family Walk — Helping Our Neighbors” fund-raiser. The Walk takes place at Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary at the LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro. Walkers, donors, and pledgers can get more information at the district’s website (enter “Attleboro District SVdP” into your Internet browser).

As in the past, Reeves said, the Legislative Forum will feature an open question-and-answer session as well as a structured dialogue.

More information is available from Reeves at  Pre-registration is not required to attend the forum, and there is no fee. Coffee and pastry will be served.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an independent Catholic lay organization with about 80,000 members in about 4,400 communities throughout the country.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts