“We have an opportunity to talk with them, to pray with them, to coordinate other agencies with them,” said Clark, of Englewood.
Clark, 71, is the president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society conference based at Our Lady of Mercy Church, and the nonprofit organization has long been an important part of her family.
Her grandfather was a member in the Netherlands, where he was a milkman who died of starvation during World War II, making sure others had enough to fill their stomachs, she said. Her father, too, was a member for many years.
“My husband and I took on that legacy,” she said.
Clark has helped people in vulnerable moments, after tornados and a pandemic caused many to seek assistance for the first time. She and the other volunteers also are among the first to see how current events effect the community, such as with the number of people who are now asking for help with increased utility costs.
The work can be overwhelming, but it is fulfilling. She talks with the people she is serving and develops relationships with them.
“You hurt for them because a lot of the time you see the injustice they’re facing,” Clark said.
She sees their struggles, but she also watches as individuals and families pull through to the other side. It is an honor for her to sit with them, talk to them about how they are feeling and to help find a solution.
“It gives more to me than I give to them,” she said.
Her daughter, Hailey Clark, said she and her brother grew up knowing that community service was “part of the fabric of our family.” The Dayton woman, who nominated her mother as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem, has had a front-row view of the work her mom does and how it has impacted her and others.
“It’s special,” she said. “It’s something that she works so hard at, and she doesn’t do it for the recognition.”
Her mother was born in Delft, a city in the Netherlands, but moved to the United States when she was 2 years old and to Dayton when she was 5. The artist by trade – she has a degree in sculpture – retired 11 years ago as the manager of the media department at the Wright State University Dunbar Library.
Her conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society has about 10 volunteers, and there is always a need for more. Mieke Clark said she is just a “small microcosm” of the program.
“This is part of a much larger whole,” she said. “What I do is done by thousands of people in the city of Dayton, by people who answer that call in any way that they can.”