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Sue Bush
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Helping Hands Needed

By Jen Thomas
10:00AM / Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Our Lady of Charity Conference Vice-president Richard Filiault [Photo by Jen Thomas]
North Adams - The Northern Berkshire-based Our Lady Of Charity Conference is seeking new members willing to bring their hearts and helping hands to those who may need both.

The conference, a local affiliate of the well-known Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is composed of 18 local members advocating for "those who are defenseless or voiceless," according to conference Vice-president and North Adams native Richard Filiault.

"The basic function of the group is to help the elderly and the poor in the community," said Filiault of the group that is composed mostly of members of the local Catholic community.

Our Lady of Charity

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Inc. is a Catholic organization founded on the belief that one can see the face of Christ through relieving need and addressing its causes. Followers, called Vincentians, honor time, talent and treasure by sharing it with those less fortunate.

Developed in March 2006, Our Lady of Charity provides emergency services to community residents in need, regardless of faith, race, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.

"Our services are open to anyone in the community," said Filiault, who noted that the intent of the organization is to offer assistance to those who "fall through the cracks."

"We’re not trying to duplicate any of the services provided by existing social agencies," he said. "A lot of our job is steering people to those agencies."

Our Lady of Charity has four officers: Filiault, Richard Moreau as president, Joan Owczaeski as secretary, and Patricia Lescarbeau as treasurer. Conferences must also have a “spiritual advisor,” who does not hold an office. St. Francis of Assisi Church’s Dean Bruce Ziter, also a fulltime supervisor at the Office of Transitional Assistance, serves in the spiritual capacity.

Human Services

The organization concentrates on individualized attention and personalized involvement in the lives of those they help. Their work involves intervention, consultation and, in many cases, financial assistance.

According to Filiault, the work Our Lady of Charity reflects the St. Vincent de Paul core values of justice, charity, and spirituality.

"Our main goal is to bring the spiritual aspect as well as the monetary and physical," said Filiault. "A lot of our work is nursing home visits, just for companionship."

The group also provides rent and heating fuel assistance and helps families and individuals pay for medical prescriptions, eye exams, and food and supplies. Our Lady of Charity also offers emergency transportation.

Most of the services are one-time emergency aid, Filiault said.

"In the long term, these people have to be able to do it on their own, and we’re doing everything in our power to help them get there," said Filiault. "Our volunteers are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts."

Most people served are referred to Our Lady of Charity through the various community social services, including the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and REACH Community Health Foundation. Filiault said the organization currently receives about 15-20 referrals a month.

Once a referral is made, a council composed of all 17 members meets to review the situation. Volunteer pairs make home visits and then make determinations about the best route for the client to take.

"We just want to help," said Filiault.

Hoping to Expand

Completely funded through church donations and fundraising efforts, Our Lady of Charity is looking for new ways to help the community.


"We’d like to expand into the rest of Berkshire County," Filiault said and added the group would like to reach out to people who live in Williamstown and Adams. “Hopefully, we’ll grow in the future.”

The group is researching grant options and has begun to focus on recruiting more volunteers.

"You don’t have to be Catholic; we just want people who are doing this work for the right reasons," Filiault said.

To become a volunteer or to seek assistance, contact Our Lady of Charity at 413-664-9105.

Jen Thomas may be reached via e-mail at jthomas@iberkshires.com or 413-663-3384 ext. 23
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