Meet the VVCs

Meet Our New Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati

Rooted in St. Vincent de Paul’s mission and tradition, Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati is a faith-based, year-long, residential service program. The program provides young professionals in their twenties an opportunity to grow in faith, friendship and service by giving deeply of themselves to neighbors in need. Join us in welcoming the 2015-2016 Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati!

rene René Betance, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, has long called Ohio home, attending high school in central Ohio and graduating from Xavier University with a degree in finance and minors in theology and peace studies. René will put his degree and service experience to work in our Ozanam Center for Service Learning during his year with VVC.

“I have experience with people vastly different than myself, but the question is what do I do with that experience? Solidarity means wanting to take that empathy and that experience and choose to stand with and for others. Though no easy task, it is our way of truly embodying the idea that we belong to each other.
molly Molly Gibbons joins us from Margate, New Jersey, having spent some time living and serving in Kampala, Uganda, doing customer service work and teaching yoga. Molly’s adventurous spirit, commitment to reflection, and love of connecting with others will serve her well in her role working with volunteers and neighbors in need in the Choice Pantry.

“I have always had a passion for helping others and doing so through a faith-based program is ideal. I would like to show others that faith is able to get you through even the most difficult of times. I look forward to being able to work with others and build strong and lasting relationships throughout this journey.”
fare Olafare “Fare” Olagbaju comes to VVC from Xavier University, where he studied Liberal Arts, with minors in business and political science, although Lekki, Nigeria, is home for Fare.  You will find Fare putting his passion for social justice and systemic change to work in SVDP’s Social Services department, walking alongside our neighbors in need.

“When I think of community the word that jumps out to me is ‘shared.’ My motivation for living in an intentional community is the ability to learn from people of different backgrounds while learning of their understanding of the world and how their religious, academic, and life experiences have drawn them to the VVC program and the work it entails.”
mellen Mary Ellen Ostrowski hails from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but has spent the past two years living and working in Patient Care in Iowa and Wisconsin. Her recent work experience and degree in biology from Benedictine College (Kansas) has prepared her well for her VVC placement working in our Charitable Pharmacy.

“The program’s spiritual component shapes the way the service is performed. People are seen as children of God regardless of their creed, race, or socioeconomic status. There is so much brokenness in this world, and we are called to be Christ to others and meet them where they are and walk with them.”
spech Sarah Spech comes to VVC with Ohio roots, graduating from University of Dayton with a degree in English, and calling Willoughby Hills, Ohio, home. Wanting to write for a nonprofit, Sarah will put her education and experience to work, splitting her time with SVDP working with our Community Relations and Social Services departments.

“Living simply will help me to more fully enter into solidarity with those whose situations I am trying to help and understand. I want to make the commitment and push myself out of my comfort zone in order to better both myself and my relationships with others, as well as to gain experiences that will benefit me throughout my life.”


The Origins of Orientation

By René Betance, written 9/16/2016


If you have ever been new to any program or group, orientation is a frequent part of that experience. In my life, it has seemed like a burden. Just another monotonous task before I finally get to the fun stuff. I am someone who likes to jump right in, no need for instructions. I can figure it out on-the-job! As the second full week of my Vincentian Volunteer of Cincinnati year of service comes to a close, I am beginning to reassess my feelings on the word “orientation.”

The origins of the word orientation have a very evident root: orient. I am reminded of the Orient Express when I hear that. More importantly however, orient refers to direction. I graduated from Xavier University with a sense of purpose and identity. I knew that I wanted to pursue an intentional life where my decisions take many dimensions into account: the earth, the community, my family. I wanted to work in justice, taking my talents to pursue equity and equality in this world.

All of this was, unfortunately, without direction. One might say that I needed to be oriented. VVC orientation to the ways of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has served not just to orient my next year, but to orient my purpose and identity. I do not yet know where this will take me, but I can already see that I’m headed in the right direction.

Today also marks the end of my first retreat in my primary role as the Ozanam Center Coordinator. This means that I will be leading a significant amount of retreats throughout the year. I found myself absorbing an immense amount of information over the past few days. Nothing can be more humbling than seeing, not just how unprepared you are, but how amazingly prepared your co-workers are. Megan is a pro, a true veteran of the retreats.

This is one of the many ways that God has very evidently taught me a lesson in humility. In this lesson of humility, I am reminded that I still have so much to learn. In this lesson, I can hear the words of my mother, “Patience is a virtue!”

As this retreat ended, the high school retreatants and I are called to trust the process. This is my challenge and my orientation. The origins of orientation, my orientation, will be lessons I will reflect on all year. It’s only just begun.