8th Annual Friends of the Poor Walk September 29th

J.D. O’Gara
St. Mary’s St. Vincent de Paul Society Event Benefits Needy in Franklin
Issue Date: 
September, 2018
Article Body: 

It’s an all-volunteer, lay organization that has been in the town of Franklin for 30 years. The group has its own food pantry, housed in St. Mary’s Church, has outreach programs to provide meals at Easter and Thanksgiving, backpacks to needy children in the fall (last year handing out 160 backpacks) and gifts to struggling families at Christmastime. The group provides clothing and other household items through its regional St Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores located in Plainville and Stoughton. And, in times of financial crisis, it helps local people get by. Last year for example, St. Mary’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul met with families in Franklin 675 times, providing financial assistance to 186 families and 1,078 bags of food for hungry people. This month marks its only annual fundraiser, the 8th Annual Friends of the Poor Walk, a 1 ½- or 3-mile walk which will take place on September 29, 2018, from 8:30-11 a.m.
“The Society benefits anyone who lives in Franklin, not just the people in St. Mary’s Parish,” says Sue Martin, a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Last year, the sole fundraiser brought in about 60 walkers, who raised about $8,000, which all poured back to needy people in the community. This year, the group hopes to raise more and at least 100 people willing to walk the 3-mile course, which begins in the parking lot of the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School. Potential donors could even donate right at the walk’s informational website, fopwalk.org/event/2066.
Annette Murphy has been organizing the Friends of the Poor Walk in Franklin Martin for the past four years. The event takes place with a lot of help from the Franklin Knights of Columbus Sacred Heart Council 1847 and the local police department as well as donations from Garelick Farms.
“I got invested in St. Vincent de Paul in 2009,” says Murphy. “When I retired, I was looking for some meaningful way to be part of the community – to contribute to it.” Fellow Society member Helen Brunelle, she says, very much inspired her to join the group, a sentiment fellow member and walk volunteer Joanne Tavalone echoes.
“I’m so glad I (joined),” says Murphy. “They’re great people to work with, and you really feel like you’re helping other people, and getting money to help with the group is a really important aspect of that.”
Members of the Society say they have seen a growing need among community members. When they are approached for help, two members of the society will come out to visit with them and assess their need.
“None of our decisions are made by one person,” says Charlotte Webber, newcomer to the walk committee this year.
“Client situations are different,” says Martin, who explains that the Society’s financial council will review each situation. “If (the need) is a larger amount, something we’re not quite sure of, they will review it and help with that decision.”
“A lot of people have come to us from homelessness,” says Nancy Schoen, who says that local people are facing issues of rising rents and utilities. Electricity rates, in particular, have increased. SvDP members are now seeing a number of people in town who are living in their cars or in the woods.
“We’re seeing a lot of people facing eviction,” says Bernice Brown. “Sometimes we can help them pay part of their back rent, but their wages cannot keep up with the increases in rent. There are people that are unemployed, but there are a lot of working poor, and there are a lot of single parents. Another group I seem to see a lot is the elderly,” adds Bernice, “specifically sometimes disabled elderly that need our help, too.”
St. Mary’s St. Vincent de Paul Society has also compiled a vast resource list of organizations in Massachusetts that can assist people with issues such as abuse, homelessness, and budgeting.
“We work very closely with many organizations within Franklin such as the Senior Center, Franklin Food Pantry and the Interfaith Church Council,” says Murphy.
All are invited to help their needy neighbors by participating in part of The Friends of the Poor Walk. Registration will begin between 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.in the Benjamin Franklin Charter School parking lot on Pleasant Street and then the walk will begin there at 9 a.m., rain or shine. You can also join the walk or donate to the cause at fopwalk.org/event/2066.