By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — On Sept. 28, it will once again be time to lace up sneakers and hit the pavement for a good cause.
In its sixth year, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Friends of the Poor Walk in South Central Oklahoma will be 9 a.m. at All Saints Catholic School, 4004 36th Ave. NW in Norman.
Activities include the walk, a silent auction, a raffle and free T-shirts, while supplies last.
The one-mile walk is not a race, organizers said, but is more of a symbolic walk to show support for those who struggle daily living in poverty. The walk benefits needy individuals and families living in Moore, Norman, Purcell and surrounding areas by providing housing and utility assistance, disaster relief and furniture.
Noreen Valadez, a member of the walk’s organizing committee, hopes this year’s event will raise $50,000.
“We are walking with the poor; that is our goal. Our goal is to get donations from the walkers and get those walkers sponsored,” Valadez said.
This year’s walk will include a large raffle, with the first prize being a large-screen TV. The second prize is a wine rack of wine, and the third prize is a four-pack of passes to Andy Alligators Fun Park.
Valadez said this year’s walk is important due to continued help that St. Vincent de Paul is offering for tornado survivors. The United Way is part of a group of agencies that continues to help the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, United Methodist Committee on Relief to do long-term case management for families displaced by May tornadoes.
“A lot of people have helped in the area, they have donated to the Red Cross, but the money (from the walk) stays in the community. We are run by volunteers; there is no staff that is paid,” Valadez said.
According to Valadez, since the tornadoes, the nonprofit has seen an increase in phone calls from those desperate for help.
“We are up to 400 cases this year. That’s an increase of almost 40 percent, and that’s basically because of the tornado,” Valadez said.
Michael McInerney, chair of the organizing committee, said about 10 to 20 families call daily seeking help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“The walk is going to be important because it’s going to lead us to Christmas. It will keep people in their homes and allow us to do some things at Christmas,” McInerney said.
McInerney said Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers went to the tornado sites in May.
“We went to Shawnee for three days, we went to Little Axe for two days. Other people went to Carney,” McInerney said. “It’s been amazing what the Oklahoma community has done.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provided $120,000 in immediate relief to tornado victims.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of the largest and oldest service organizations in the world. The society was founded in 1833 in Paris by Frederic Ozanam. The Catholic lay organization provides services such as assistance to the elderly, sick and disabled; a food pantry for needy families and residents; and thrift stores to provide clothing, furniture and more.
The walk is open to the community. Registration can be done online at StVincentdePaulOKC.org. Participants are asked to either sign up online or arrive early to register and bring donations and pledges.
Last year, the organization helped 12,819 needy people in central Oklahoma. They distributed $265,551 in financial aid and $27,899 in in-kind goods. The group has contributed 24,726 hours of time and driven 55,627 non-reimbursed miles.
For silent auction donations and event sponsorship, call McInerney at 921-6107.