Not even the Covid-19 pandemic can keep Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. from distributing emergency aid.

“During these difficult times I try to … reassure our clients that someone is always there to help and to try and take things one step and one day at a time,” said Irene Manion, emergency aid coordinator. “I like to think and have seen that if we can all do a little with caring and compassion it can truly go a long way to help our neighbors in need.”

Vermont Catholic Charities distributed nearly $200,000 in aid from January through December 2019 with funds going to support client requests for emergency aid, Advent Appeal assistance, dentures and prison transition assistance. 

The Emergency Aid Program provides financial and emotional help to individuals and families who face unexpected crises or worry about how they are going to meet their most basic needs like heat, electricity and food. They are the unemployed, the underemployed, the retired, the sick and the vulnerable.

Genie, for example, is a single mother of two who had been out of work because of Covid-19. When she called Vermont Catholic Charities, she had just begun a new job but did not have the proper footwear or clothing for it. Emergency aid funds provided her with a store gift card to get what she needed for her new job.

“Vermont Catholic Charities assists people in need whether they are Catholic or not,” said Mary Beth Pinard, executive director. “We do what we do because we are Catholic not because those we serve are Catholic.”

In the past year, the agency has provided emergency aid to 2,007 adults and 1,464 children from 1,434 households.

Catholic Charities staff members have seen an increased need for assistance since the pandemic began. “People feel more scared, worried and isolated,” Pinard said. “Initially we saw an increase in calls from people who were worried and wanted guidance and someone to listen to them. In more recent months we have seen an increase particularly in requests for food assistance.”

Despite the increase in demand, the agency has tried to help as many families as possible, given its limited budget.

Donations are key to funding the Emergency Aid Program. “Every gift — whatever the size —makes a difference in the lives of Vermonters in need,” Pinard said.

To donate, go to or mail a check to Vermont Catholic Charities, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403.

—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.