As inflation and the rising cost of living in the Bay Area continue to wreak havoc on the economy, many of us are feeling the effects. Earlier this month, KQED shared an article showcasing how rising inflation and cost of living are impacting food banks’ abilities to source affordable, healthy food for people in need. But the people suffering the most are our friends and neighbors on the economic margins of our society – the hardworking people who cannot keep up with the rising cost of living, the mothers and fathers who are not sure where to turn to find food for their hungry children.
For many of those in need, finding assistance can be a frustrating and confusing process. It can often be so frustrating it discourages people from seeking help. Thankfully, when our friends and neighbors in need call St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County, they can talk to truly dedicated, compassionate, and caring volunteers like you – and like Helen Crump.
“A lot of the people who call looking for assistance are looking for food or to stay in their home,” Helen Crump said. “Many have no idea where to turn, or many are disabled and lack the ability to navigate the various charities and find the aid they need.”
“Helen also helps at the Family Resource Center with all kinds of clerical duties. Stuffing envelopes, filing, restocking the food pantry – she has such a “can do” attitude. Helen is a joy to have on our team!” Bonnie Casey, SVdP Facilities & Transportation Manager said.
Helen found St. Vincent de Paul while she and her husband Daniel were living in Sacramento. Helen volunteered at the soup kitchen in Sacramento, handing out hot, healthy food to her hungry neighbors in need. When her husband retired, they moved to the Bay Area, where 2 of their 3 daughters currently live.
“My family has a long history of caring for those in need,” Helen said. “When we moved to the Bay Area, I heard there was a large and active St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County branch at Christ the King in Pleasant Hill. I felt like I just had to continue to use my talents to help people.”
Helen said growing up, her father and mother raised her to be community minded, and when she had children of her own, she could not help but volunteer at their school. As her children grew, Helen found she enjoyed teaching children so much she went back to school and earned her teaching certificate. Helen spent time teaching various grades, and primarily substituting to help teachers that had to take time off.
“There are just so many people that need help,” Helen said. “There are so many things you can do that may seem small, but in your heart, you know you’re really making a difference in people’s lives.”
After volunteering for a bit at Christ the King, Helen said she wanted to find out how she could continue to make an impact. Helen began volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Family Resource Center in Pittsburg every week. While at the Family Resource Center, Helen hands out food to families in need from the St. Vincent de Paul Emergency Food Pantry, as well as snack and hygiene kits to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Helen also helps people in need find the assistance they need when they call in, desperate for help.
“Helen is incredibly patient and kind,” SVdP Development Director Barbara Hunt said. “When people call in looking for aid, whether it be food for their family or rental assistance to keep them from becoming homeless, they are often at the end of their rope. Having someone like Helen, someone who truly cares answering calls for help, can make all the difference. People often feel like they are being buried by their troubles, and that no one cares. Helen not only assists them find the resources they need, but she is a kind and compassionate voice that lets them know that someone does, in fact, care.”
One of the most important ways SVdP provides aid is in providing compassionate listening. All are welcome to reach out to SVdP when they find they are in need.
Helen has been a regular face at the St. Vincent de Paul Family Resource Center in Pittsburg for over a year. Her help is not only appreciated by the staff members at the Family Resource Center, but by the people she helps with food, clothing, hygiene items, and her compassion.
“You get a real sense of gratitude from the people you talk to here,” Helen said. “It’s so satisfying to feel like you’re making a difference, no matter how small. There are so many little problems that people can apply their skills to where they can have a tremendous impact on people in need.”