After receiving nearly $3million in disaster relief donations following catastrophic flooding in central and eastern Kentucky in July 2022, the Catholic Diocese of Lexington and Catholic Charities Lexington began working with disaster response teams and community partners in each of the affected counties. As of today, they have spent nearly $2.5million, helping nearly 300 families begin the recovery process.
The Diocese and Catholic Charities facilitated the involvement of national organizations to provide relief. One of these is the Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. DSC’s House in a Box™ program provides not only new furniture and furnishings to families who have lost everything in a disaster, but also a sense of dignity and a fresh start.
Specifically, House in a Box™ provides items such as beds, dressers, linens, dishes, cookware, silverware, bathroom setup, a dinette, and a couch. Through a unique partnership between Algorand, Aid:Tech, Amazon Business, and DSC, survivors are able to place orders for new home goods and the items are delivered directly to the individual homes for ease and accessibility. Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of DSC, stated, “Working together through the combined efforts of both NGOs, private sector partners, and community leaders we can give a hand up to families who have been devastated by natural disasters. DSC hopes that this whole community integrated approach will be a role model for future disaster recovery efforts in Kentucky.”
A case manager in one of the counties emailed the following statement: "My client lost everything in the July flood, and almost lost his life. He lives in a tiny community in Letcher County, with minimal income and no family support. We were able to get a rental property and get his utilities connected with what income he had. He is sleeping on the floor with a blanket under him and one over him. I heard about House in a Box, not expecting to get my client approved. We had been turned down many times due to so many people being flooded and the scarcity of resources. I submitted my client’s application, and the very next day received an email stating he had been approved for House in a Box. Unable to contain myself, I printed the email and told my client the exciting news. He fell to the floor on his knees and cried intensely. Of course, I am crying too. He said: “This is a miracle. I was giving up. I don’t know what to say or do. Oh my God.” So thank you, House in a Box, for being my client’s miracle maker. My client thanks you from the bottom of his heart. He stated: “They put hope in my hopelessness.”
In addition to DSC’s House in a Box™ program, the Catholic Diocese of Lexington and Catholic Charities Lexington developed a partnership with Home Depot through which they are providing building materials and installing HVAC systems throughout the affected counties.
About Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP-USA
The Disaster Services Corporation, Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA (DSC) is a Catholic lay organization and non-profit that provides person-to-person recovery services to families impacted by man-made and natural disasters across the United States and US territories. DSC facilitates change by integrating equity into all aspects of emergency management. Our focus is on humanity and our vision supports the empowerment of marginalized communities within all phases of the disaster management cycle. We support development and implementation of innovative community-based programs and adaptation projects to enhance resilience in diverse, vulnerable, and underserved communities. For more information on the Disaster Services Corporation, SVDP-USA’s House in a Box™ program can be found at: www.svdpdisaster.org
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington
Established in 1988 by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Diocese of Lexington was formed from parts of the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Diocese of Covington, and covers almost 16,400 square miles, representing 50 counties in Central and Eastern Kentucky. While part of the Diocese includes the lavish farms of the Horse Capital of the World, its 40 Appalachian counties are the “other America,” where 74 percent of children live below the federal poverty line. The city of Lexington and the surrounding counties are a center of commerce, transportation, and education; within this generally prosperous area, however, there are many people in need. The rural and mountain areas face the challenges of high rates of poverty and unemployment, along with the inherent problems affecting communities that lack basic necessities.
The Catholic population of the diocese is very small, around 3% of the total. An estimated 60% of the total population within the bounds of the diocese does not belong to any church or denomination, although most of the residents would identify themselves as Christian. Thus, the Catholic Diocese of Lexington is designated as a mission diocese within the United States. The geographic, demographic, and economic characteristics indicate the acute need to evangelize Gospel values and provide outreach services elevating human dignity and eliminating human suffering.