WOOSTER — Jennifer Conrad-Bass was not in a good place.

About two and a half years ago, she went through a bad breakup with a longtime partner, after which she lived out of her car for months. 

"I was kind of found on the street after that situation," she said. "And I needed to pick myself back up."

So Conrad-Bass, who is Catholic, sought help from the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. The organization, which is run by a group of 18 volunteers and funded entirely through parishioner donations, provides housing-related financial assistance, referrals to other community resources and prayerful support and companionship to people in need. 

The group helped Conrad-Bass find a place to live, and provided some rental assistance. The local St. Vincent de Paul Society, which is part an international organization with about 880,000 volunteers worldwide, also provided food assistance and help finding furniture. 

"So it took all that pressure off immediately," she said. 

Meanwhile, Conrad-Bass, now 48, also participated in the Ridge Project, which helps people returning from periods of incarceration, and got accepted into Great Lakes Truck Driving School near Cleveland. 

"We saw her wanting to help herself," said Johnna Viator, who works at St. Mary’s and handles the intake process for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. "She was doing the legwork. She wasn’t just coming to us and asking for a handout. ... So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel as long as that person is willing to do the legwork. We’re here to help."

Today, Conrad-Bass has her own house near The College of Wooster, and a stable job as a truck driver for Botha Trucking, which is based in Fredericksburg. 

"It’s been amazing," she said. "It’s been an incredible couple of years."

Conrad-Bass is one of hundreds of local people the St. Vincent de Paul Society has helped since coming to St. Mary’s about eight years ago, said Cheryl Davis, who serves as the group’s vice president. The organization averages about 60 cases per month, Davis added, and nearly all of the people who seek help are not Catholic.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is able to offer some financial assistance — for expenses such as rent and utility payments — in about half of those cases each month. But for everyone who comes to St. Mary’s asking for help, the group tries to connect them with partner organizations that may be able to help, including People to People Ministries, OneEighty, Salvation Army, Wayne County Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Community Action Wayne/Medina, Wayne Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Wayne County Job and Family Services. 

"Even if we can’t help them, we try and point them in the right direction as to what organization might be able to help them," Viator said. "I don’t want them to go away empty handed."

Alongside the financial support and resource referral, St. Vincent de Paul Society volunteers also make home visits to everyone who comes to them for assistance. 

"It’s all about getting to know our neighbors, getting to share time with them," Davis said. "... We’re about connecting with our local community and helping them where we can."

People who want to apply for assistance from the St. Vincent de Paul Society should visit the St. Mary’s parish office, located at 527 Beall Ave. in Wooster, from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. More flexible hours are available in special circumstances. 

After filling out an intake form, people seeking help from the group will get a home visit from two volunteers, who work in pairs. At that home visit, they’ll discuss the needs of the person asking for help, get to know each other and pray together. The volunteers then determine if the St. Vincent de Paul Society will be able to help in each individual case. The group is only able to help people who live in or close to Wooster. 

The St. Vincent de Paul Society also welcomes new volunteers, who meet as a group twice a month. Volunteers don’t need to be members of St. Mary’s, and will receive all the necessary training. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact the parish office at 330-264-8824. 

— Reporter Jack Rooney can be reached at 330-287-1645 or jrooney@the-daily-record.com. He is on Twitter at twitter.com/RooneyReports.

More details:

Name: St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 527 Beall Ave., Wooster

About: The St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Wooster provides housing-related financial assistance, referrals to other community resources and prayerful support and companionship to people in need.

How to help: Contact the parish office to volunteer or donate

Phone: 330-264-8824

Website: www.stmarywooster.org/ministries/st-vincent-de-paul-society