Last year, a Traverse Magazine reader was flipping through the pages of MyNorth Give. Their loved one had passed away, earmarking a substantial amount of money to go to charity—one that had to be specifically Catholic. The reader paused on the page profiling the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, then picked up the phone. They were suddenly the beneficiary of a truly tremendous gift.

Read MyNorth Give for more inspiring nonprofits and ways to give back in Northern Michigan.

A big donation requires big vision. But as part of the society’s mission, “big gifts can’t be hoarded for the future—they have to be utilized within the fiscal year,” explains Julie Ellalasingham, director at the Grand Traverse Area Society of St. Vincent De Paul. “So we bought a house with cash.”

Ellalasingham is constantly being invited to public meetings on the issue of affordable housing. “We’re in touch with this huge need. There seem to be a lot of meetings, but not much happening. HUD has loans, but they are restricted. There just seems to be this gap that makes it hard for that person in need to reach out and grab that branch,” she says.

The society realized that the clients they served were struggling to find Section 8 housing, due to the fact that most landlords would rather rent during the summer and make their money in a few short months and at far higher rates than Section 8 pays. They knew that this purchase would help give legs to community members who needed safe and secure housing and were already working hard to provide it for their families.

By partnering with another organization who secured Section 8 vouchers and helped find tenants, the St. Vincent DePaul was able to open the home to a single mom and her two children.

The society is entirely volunteer run, with income from its thrift shop helping to fund its operations. Gifts like this donation, however, enable them to vastly broaden their scope, allowing them to offer other programs where funds are earmarked to directly support families with housing and other needs.

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