Over the years, the Society’s assistance has taken a variety of forms: a bag of coal or a voucher to a woodpile to keep a family warm during the winter months; free ship passage on the White Star line back to England when the American dream did not work out for a spinster in 1898; a free hospital bed at St. Luke’s Hospital for the ill (the average stay in 1927 was 1 month); a pawn ticket paid to retrieve a winter coat in 1904; assistance for British War Brides who found themselves in need upon their arrival in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s.
Today, 70% of the Society’s stipends are for rent support. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 many private charitable associations in New York City, including St. George’s Society, experienced a marked increase in demand for services from people in crisis, many facing homelessness. The overriding goal of the St. George’s Beneficiary Program is to prevent homelessness by providing rent assistance for elderly and disabled New Yorkers.
Most people who seek assistance from the Society have enjoyed a normal lifestyle, which becomes interrupted by illness or some other disruption to their income. Within a very short space of time they find themselves in debt and then in crisis. Help may not be available from the State and often they face the prospect of eviction. 65-year-old Roger C. from England recently found that despite living a productive life, his Social Security income no longer covers his basic housing needs.
|“I live in a neighborhood with a fairly noticeable homeless population. I see them sitting in the park every day and have wondered lately if that could happen to me. Thanks to St. George’s Society, that worry has been very much allayed.”|
In recent years, we have extended our reach to include people of Commonwealth descent. 66-year-old Millicent B. from Jamaica has done manual labor all her life but was forced to retire from her job as a home care worker when she could no longer lift and pull patients safely. Millicent’s $805 Social Security income is insufficient to cover her $700 rent, utilities and other basic needs so the Society provides her with a $400 stipend.
Through its Beneficiary Program, each year St. George’s Society assists over 80 beneficiaries and approximately 90% of the Society’s charitable budget is spent on its Beneficiary Program. Our support enables seniors to make ends meet, pay rent, buy medication, afford public transportation and generally enhances their quality of life. The financial assistance we provide is supplemented by much-needed emotional support from our full-time social worker, Mary Lamasney, LMSW.
In September 2011, SGS implemented a new initiative to further encourage social interaction and enhance quality of life with its first group outing for beneficiaries. 25 beneficiaries visited the Caribbean Food Delights plant in Tappan, New York, as guests of Vincent HoSang, the founder and CEO, who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. The visit included a tour around the factory and lunch, after which visitors were given samples of the food to take home. Friendships among the beneficiaries resulted from time spent together and a second social event took place in September 2012 – a tea party featuring a reading from the memoirs of one of our beneficiaries.
While the assistance St. George’s provides has changed over time, the purpose has remained the same – to help those who cannot help themselves. Since its founding 242 years ago, we have aided thousands of British and Commonwealth persons while striving to fulfill our mission statement: “Let mercy be our boast and shame our only fear.”