Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Pasco Vincentians make the difference in young family’s life

by Linda Herman, for the Inland Register

(From the December 17, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

St. Patrick Parish Vincentians and volunteers fill food boxes in the conference’s Food Bank and Community Services facility in Pasco. On the day before Thanksgiving the conference provided meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, and dry goods to 1,027 families – a total of 66,755 pounds of food. (IR photo by Marie Schultz)

(Helping our neighbors through times of adversity and giving them hope for a future is the mission of St. Vincent de Paul’s St. Patrick Conference Food Bank and Community Services in Pasco. The following is a true story about how we work together with our community to be an “Open Door to Hope” for our neighbors who find themselves in need, no matter what the time of day or night.)

A member of the conference received a phone call from one of St. Patrick Parish’s priests to report a homeless man needing help. The man turned out to be a 19-year-old who had custody of his 17-year-old sister and 15- and 9-year-old brothers, the younger of whom had autism. In listening to the young man’s story, the Vincentian – as members of the Society are known – learned that the young man and his siblings were in a desperate situation.

The crisis had begun over a year earlier when the young people’s mother, the sole support for the family, had been arrested for being in the country illegally. After living in the Tri-Cities for over 22 years, the mother had sought an enhanced driver’s license to go to Mexico to visit her ailing mother. Unable to provide the Department of Licensing necessary documentation, she was refused the license. Later that day, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at the family’s apartment and arrested her.

A friend of the mother agreed to take the children until everything was straightened out, thinking it would just be a few days. But things didn’t go as hoped. The mother was first sent to an immigration detention center in Tacoma, then to California for processing for deportation to Mexico.

Since the children’s father had been gone for years, the young man promised his mother he would keep all four of them together while she was away. He transferred to Pasco’s alternative high school, New Horizons, which offered the more flexible class scheduling necessary to continue his schooling and work part-time to contribute to his host’s income. He saw to it that his siblings remained in school.

All was well for the little family for over a year. But then misfortune struck when their host’s family experienced its own setback: relatives lost their home to foreclosure and needed a place to stay. The friend no longer had room for the four children and told them they had to leave, making them homeless.

Not knowing where else to turn to for help, the children reached out to their church family. They showed up at St. Patrick Church in a van that served as their home.

After listening to the young man’s story and reassuring him that he and his siblings were not alone, the St. Patrick Vincentians made arrangements for temporary lodging at a local motel while permanent housing was sought. The Vincentians provided food, referred the family to Catholic Charities and Benton-Franklin Counties Coordinated Entry System (CES) for housing assistance, and provided gas for the van so the young man could get to work and continue driving his siblings to school. CES provided lodging for a week until an apartment became available.

When the apartment was secured, the Vincentians went into action once again, delivering everything needed to set up a household from their Food Bank and Community Services’ clothing and household department. They provided the young family with dishes, a coffee pot, silverware, pots and pans, cups, glasses, and towels, as well as clothing and personal items. Other Vincentians delivered furniture purchased from Teen Challenge Thrift Store, including a living room couch, end tables, lamps, wall hangings, a dining table, chairs, and bedding. A large recliner and queen bed were also donated by a St. Patrick parishioner. Vincentians also offered personal donations, such as gas and McDonald’s gift certificates as an Easter treat.

Then, just as things were looking up, the elder daughter, by then 18, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Without her mother, she depended on her older brother for emotional support as she underwent two surgeries and treatment while still attending school. Together, the family faced this terrifying challenge with courage and determination, remaining together and staying in school.

Fast-forward two years to the present. The eldest son has graduated from New Horizons, has a full-time job, and plans on attending Columbia Basin College to become a registered nurse. His sister has graduated from Chiawanna High School, has a part-time job, and plans to seek a degree in electrical engineering. Her surgeries and related treatments were successful and the tough young patient is well down the road to recovery. The two youngest are attending Pasco schools and are adjusting well. The family’s mother has returned to Pasco to prepare for a deportation hearing in February 2016. The St. Patrick Vincentians continue to support the family with food and other services as needed. The four young people are determined to become self-sufficient and assets to their community. They have a positive outlook and hope for a great future.

When someone in Pasco is in crisis, St. Patrick Conference Vincentians are able to respond quickly, whether the need is food, clothing, household items, or other emergency assistance. Once the emergency situation is addressed, action is taken to network with other local agencies to stabilize the person’s life, offering hope for a return to community and a life free of the fear of poverty and homelessness. The Pasco Vincentians strive to embody the Society’s informal motto: “No form of charity is unknown to us.”

(Hermann is a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Patrick Parish, Pasco.)

(For more information about the work of the Vincentians, contact parish St. Vincent de Paul conferences, or email Paul Machtolf: Donations can be made directly to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Spokane District Council, P.O. Box 2906, Spokane, WA 99220, or to the individual parish Conferences. Additional information is available on their web site:

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