Society of St. Vincent de Paul helps seniors displaced by Centreville fire

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A lifetime of memories went up in flames for 137 residents of the Forest Glen Senior Apartments in Centreville May 2 when a fire caused more than $10 million in damages. 

But the seniors displaced by the fire are not alone and have been assisted by many organizations, including the St. Vincent de Paul conference, or chapter, at St. Timothy Church in Chantilly. 

Charlene Unterkofler, coordinator of senior relief services for St. Vincent de Paul, said within a week the parish became involved in assisting the seniors.

“We have had contact with the seniors there for many years,” she said. 

In the past few weeks, the conference spent $10,000 to help seniors pay their first month’s rent in their new apartments and supplied them with new beds, sometimes delivering the beds themselves to ensure the seniors wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor their first night in a new place, according to Unterkofler. 

SVdP received a $10,000 donation from Bob’s Discount Furniture Charitable Foundation, and $24,000 from St. Timothy parishioners, the Knights of Columbus and partnering conferences, including All Saints Church in Manassas, St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax and Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna.

Throughout the process, Unterkofler noticed resiliency in the seniors. “They have a lot of hope in this. It’s a kind of new beginning,” she said. “It is a real joy to be with them and work with them.”

Kathy Miller, president of the All Saints chapter, said assisting these seniors is “all in a day’s work.” Their membership approved a $1,500 donation to the St. Timothy's conference to assist, and also help two couples moving to Manassas. Father Lee R. Roos, pastor of All Saints, contributed parish funds for the immediate needs.

One couple secured a ground-floor apartment. Several household items, such as furniture and a queen-sized bed were donated. The Knights of Columbus found and delivered a lift chair for the husband.  

“This couple received everything they needed to begin their new chapter,” said Miller. “They could not have been more pleased and grateful.”

Assisting these seniors is living out a part of SVdP’s mission statement: “A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”

“It is developing personal relationships with those in need that sets us apart from other services,” Unterkofler said. “It's all about being a channel of God's love and mercy through practical deeds to relieve the stress of those who suffer.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018