Dr. Jeannie Shimane consults with Lorena Gomez during her visit to the free dental clinic.

As things continue to get more expensive, our neighbors are being forced to make really difficult choices, like whether to buy food or pay rent. Without insurance, countless people are forced to go with-out healthcare. But they don’t have to. St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County (SVdP) volunteers are here to help their neighbors – neighbors like Lorena Gomez.

Lorena Gomez has always been a woman who loved giving back to her community. Throughout her life, when the call came for volunteers at her Church or children’s school, Lorena was the first in line to help. A single mother of four and recently a new grandmother, Lorena has always been a pillar of her community, but when she and her family found themselves having to move from New York to California, her life changed. When health and financial issues began to plague her family, she was unsure where she could turn for help. Luckily, she had a friend who had received help from the local Conference (branch) of St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County in San Ramon, at St. Joan of Arc Church.

Lorena’s family ran into financial trouble shortly after their move to California. She said it was hard to find work that paid enough to allow her to provide for herself and children. This was made even harder while dealing with the realities of being a single mother during the COVID-19 school closures. In addition, life began to get much harder when a series of severe health issues began plaguing her family.
“My family has been going through so much,” Lorena said. “But everyone at SVdP has been so kind and understanding. They are such a blessing in my life. They’re my angels.”

“I’ll be forever grateful for the help SVdP has been providing my family,” Juan said. “Without the help from SVdP I don’t think we’d be here. They’ve helped us with food, they’ve helped keep a roof over our heads and they’re helping my mother get well. They’re amazing people.”

Health complications surrounding the birth of Lorena’s grand-daughter, Stephanie, have hit the family hard, and Lorena said the new-born is struggling. At the same time, her eldest, Juan, was hospitalized with a brain tumor and is awaiting a full prognosis. While trying to handle the stress of dealing with family challenges, Lorena started feeling extreme tooth pain.
“Getting my tooth pain resolved has been a huge relief for me,” Lorena said. “It has been so bad that it has been hard to think and deal with everything going on in my life.”

A Vincentian from the St. Joan of Arc branch, Frank Wnuk, said, “The Gomez family is a really lovely family. Our SVdP branch has been helping them with food, utilities and rent. SVdP’s goal is to help the Gomez family get through their challenges and get them to self-sufficiency. We were also able to help get them a car through SVdP’s auto donation program, so that Lorena will be able to work and support her family. We also helped Lorena get dental care from SVdP’s new free dental clinic in Pittsburg.”

Lorena said some of the most meaningful assistance she is receiving from SVdP is simply having someone to talk to and share her burdens. Lorena said she is especially grateful for Frank and fellow Vincentian Alfonso Boukouzia.

“Just having someone to talk to during all of this has been a great help to me,” Lorena said. “I feel blessed that Frank and Alfonso were assigned to my case, they are both such amazingly kind and wonderful people. Their kindness helps me know that God is going to see us through this okay.”