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By Bob Zerr, President, South Central Indiana District

While working at the University of Notre Dame, managing risks was one of my responsibilities. I was constantly concerned about the safety and health of the faculty, students, staff and visitors to campus. Trying to fix identified problems and anticipate what could go wrong was always on my mind. Now as President of the South Central Indiana District, I continue to be concerned about the risks that those in need face on a daily basis. Are the conferences in my District providing the right services in a fair and efficient manner? Do they have the funds to help with utility, rent assistance and other needs especially during this pandemic? Are we adequately addressing food insecurities, homelessness and clothing and furniture needs?

In the eight counties our conferences reside in, we have been able to address most of these needs and many others with our truly committed Vincentians, associate members and volunteers. Generous donations from our loyal donors, corporations and granting agencies have kept us going during these times of lost jobs, lost income, utility shut-offs, evictions and food concerns. Why do individuals, companies and granting agencies provide funds for our conferences? They believe in us! They believe we will treat our clients with compassion and instill hope for better days to come. They know we will spend the funds as directed and ensure that those in most need receive our services.

All of our conferences have been blessed with funds to address utility and rent assistance. Special grants totaling over $100,000 to address COVID-related hardships have been awarded to conferences in Bloomington, Shelbyville, North Vernon and Brown County. We have been blessed with volunteer grant writers and presenters who have painted a caring picture of the different services we have offered over the years. Thrift stores in North Vernon and Bedford provide very reasonably priced or free clothing to those who have very little or nothing. To address food insecurities, food pantries have operated in Brown County and North Vernon for many years. Students at St. Joseph Grade School in Shelbyville recently raised $1,600 to help with the purchase of food gift cards for those with food concerns. Furniture warehouses have been set up in Bloomington and Shelbyville to provide free furniture to individuals or families that have recently found housing. Our Columbus conference recently established a Changing Lives Forever program to help client candidates lift themselves out of poverty, and our conferences in Seymour and Martinsville are finding ways to provide food and utility assistance to those in need in their communities.

Our District has been truly blessed. But is it enough? Are we making a difference? If we look at The Works of Mercy, which originated from Matthew 25:34-37, 40; are we feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead? Yes, I believe we are! The South Central Indiana District of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is making a significant impact through our acts of kindness, mercy and love towards our neighbors.

For more information on the South Central Indiana District (Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Jennings, Lawrence, Monroe, Morgan and Shelby Counties), contact Bob Zerr at

PICTURED: Dan working in the North Vernon Food Pantry.