A year of service for a lifetime of change

Written by Patricia Huelseman

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in leadership, Mary struggled with the question: “What next? Grad school? Apply for jobs?”

A friend suggested that she join him in the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati (VVC) year of service program. She told him she didn’t think it would be a good fit for her, but she applied nonetheless.

“I loved every bit of the experience,” she said. Mary’s year of service, from 2013-2014, gave her an experience she’ll value for the rest of her life.

“It was a challenging year,” she said. “It was everything I needed to grow and learn more about myself professionally, learn more about where I saw myself in my faith, and to make some really great resolutions. I’m really grateful to VVC for that.”

The Vincentian Volunteers live in community for 11 months in a home in the West End where they make new discoveries about themselves, their faith, and their relationships with others. Embracing this great opportunity to broaden their horizons, Vincentian Volunteers benefit from a mentor and gain valuable professional experience working side by side with St. Vincent de Paul staff.

Mary worked in the Social Services department and had a direct impact on our neighbors in need, helping them find ways to pay their rent, keep the electric on, and find a bed to sleep on at night.

It was emotionally tolling; Mary struggled with the stories she heard on a daily basis. But it was also incredibly rewarding. “To honor their humanity and just provide some dignity that maybe some of these folks aren’t used to getting on a daily basis because of their situation, that was definitely rewarding.”

Mary’s year of service provided her with the skills necessary to move on to become a youth development coach and a program coordinator at University of Michigan. Mary will now start her graduate studies in higher education with a focus on diversity and social justice. Her experience as a Vincentian Volunteer of Cincinnati has prepared her for a career and life as an advocate for social justice.

To learn more about Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati, visit SVDPcincinnati.org/vvc, call (513) 562-8841 ext. 239 or email vvc@SVDPcincinnati.org.

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

Orientation.

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.

Courage to Stay

“Grant Me”

by Jeanette Lesenko, written 11/13/15

 

Grant me the courage to stay

To be with those in pain

And to lean on others for support

When I can no longer support myself

 

Grant me the patience to be.

 

 

 

To listen with my whole heart

And accept that growth and change take time

When I become frustrated with myself or others

 

Grant me the honesty to give

To be true to myself and others

And stand up against the world’s injustices

As the rights of others are wrongly stripped

 

Grant me expressions of love

To show others my true colors

And feelings that can be filtered through

When the familiar logic of my mind conveys outer apathy

 

Finally, grant me your love

To fuel a well-intentioned spirit unconditionally

And accept me for all my shortcomings

Especially when I fall short of my best self

 

Jeanette-SelfieThis is a prayer-poem that I wrote in November of this past year with VVC. I wanted to encompass what I was feeling at that point in the year with all of the changes and adjustments that come with a new position, new insights on local injustices, a new community and dynamics, etc. It was the time of year for change, both inside and out, as the leaves changed and so did I. I wanted to start the poem off with a mantra that I had recently identified around this time- “Grant me the courage to stay”- one that I have cycled back to time and time again that has given me the strength and courage to continue on as I attempt to walk through my fears and insecurities this year rather than walk around or ignore them. Enjoy! – Jeanette Lesenko (in photo ,front and center)

“Charity begins at home…”

Photos of the place where charity begins.

Take a virtual tour of the VVC House with Amy…

“Charity begins at home and justice begins next door.” – Charles Dickens

Starting Small…

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I wanted to share a quote that I found recently while reading one of the e-mails that I receive through Dynamic Catholic; it reads:

“We cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. We cannot save everyone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save some. Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. And what we can do, all of us, is make small sacrifices, and simplify our lives in some small ways so that others may simply live.”

Throughout my time with VVC, I have struggled with the amount of hardship I have seen our neighbors face, the social justice issues I have come to learn more about and sometimes the hopelessness and immense weight from all of this that I feel. I may not be the person directly facing these issues, but this feeling drives me to want some larger societal change. However, there are times where it all seems like so much that I don’t know where to start or how I could even make any sort of difference.

Now, that’s where this quote comes in…

I’m starting to learn that no matter what big changes I want to see in society or be a part of, I need to start small. I need to focus on the individuals I meet and finding some way to help them that may only work once, but I also need to think about finding avenues through which it could potentially influence their everyday life.

If there are ways I can help individuals or families, then that is better than if I never worked to serve my neighbors and their needs at all. Seeing the smile on someone’s face after talking with them or the joy I hear in their voice when saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer together reminds me that I am doing what I can do. It is in those brief moments that I know I am not allowing what I cannot do interfere with being present to the people and experiences right before me.

Starting small means I am present to my neighbors in need who I encounter every day. I know I can work to directly serve someone through home visits or walk with them through the Choice Food Pantry. I can listen to and share their stories.

Starting small includes educating myself about a particular issue and then sharing that knowledge with my friends, family, coworkers, etc. so that they are able to do the same. The more people who know about an issue, the more they are able to make informed decisions for promoting change in their own lives and others. It’s those small changes that can make a whole world of difference for another who is struggling.

Finding a place to start could be as simple as determining the issue I am most passionate about.

At this point, I cannot confidently say that there is one issue that stands out for me from the rest when it comes to advocating for change, but my mind has been focused most recently on food insecurities for families. After having a discussion about food injustice with my VVC community and Maura, I find myself looking at where my food comes from, the nutritional value it holds, and the cost of getting all the ingredients used to the dinner table. I have the opportunity to think about these things and make choices as to what I do eat, but not everyone has that chance. For many of the neighbors that I have encountered, there are times where they are simply grateful to know they will have food on the table for their next meal after visiting our Choice Food Pantry.

There is a little girl named Gracie that I have had the pleasure of seeing a couple times, and being able to sing and dance with her as she waits for her mother to go through our pantry intake process always brightens my day. But it also saddens me to think about how this little girl that is so full of joy and life may not have food to eat next week. I wonder what can be done to give her family the peace of mind to know they will always have food for their next meal. And not only that they have food, but filling, healthy food that will support their minds and bodies as they go about their day.

I know food pantries can act as something to fall back on when families are in need, but my constant question is: what can I do or what can others do to prevent families from getting tangled in that safety net? What can be done to provide them with some sort of food security?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I know I need to get to the root of a situation, explore it and then work to expose and transform that root. Then as the root influences the different branches it connects to, it results in some sort of change instead of continuing to support the injustice. Keeping the big picture in mind is important when it comes to wanting to make a change, but I also can’t let it discourage me.

And in the midst of it, I can’t forget to just be present to the people right in front of me. To put a face and a name to these issues and the impact these systems have on them.

After all, “we cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing.”

Amy bio photoNoser splits her time between our Ozanam Center for Service Learning and working with group and individual Volunteers to come to SVDP. In the midst of it all, Amy takes in all that she is experiencing – from her encounters with our neighbors who come to us looking for assistance to the conversations we have during weekly reflection. We know Amy has been paying attention, as her eating habits have shifted after our conversation on food justice…she sometimes eats her vegetables in the middle of her meals now, and not just before to get it over with!

Community: to extend your family.

VVC alumni retreat group 2016

What does it mean to a part of a community… to extend your family.

As I return back to Chicago ready to teach the 120 middle schoolers that await me, I sit filled with gratitude. I also sit missing my family. I miss my mom, dad, and brothers who I haven’t seen in a couple months. However, I also sit missing Maura, Luke, Jeanette, Tim, Andrea, the VVC community, and SVdP. I have just returned from the VVC alumni retreat in Cincinnati this past weekend where past and current members of VVC gathered together. We gathered to reflect on our experiences during and post VVC, to reground ourselves in our Vincentian roots, and to spend time in friendship with one another. My heart is very full.

Though each community is unique, we all shared the bond of the VVC experience. Whether, we were from the first-ever VVC community, a member of cohort 2, a year 3 alum, or a current VVCer, we share a bond of what it means to dedicate a year to an organization as outstanding as SVdP and to a community as dynamic, challenging, and life-giving as the West End. We can connect on what it means to reflect together each Tuesday, to venture down to the basement where the photos of “The Man’s” birthday still lie, to engage with neighbors along the way to and from work each day, to join in the laughter, friendship, and spirit of collaboration among all SVdP staff members, and to have Maura guide, mentor, help, and care for you in one of your biggest years of personal growth. We all share a bond no matter what year we completed VVC. Working at a place like St. Vincent de Paul, with a staff like SVdP’s, and in a neighborhood with neighbors like the ones who visit SVdP, gives you this gift.

So again, I say to be in community means to extend your family. I am a part of the VVC family in the broad sense, and I am a part of the VVC Year 3 family. Jeanette, Luke, Tim, and Andrea each have made an imprint on my life and are my family. As I sat around the table reflecting with them this past weekend on where we have been the past 7 months, I did not want time to end. I wanted to freeze that moment and get to stay in it. Looking around the table at each of them, laughing with them, sharing with them, giving and taking advice with/from them, and being present to them is being in a family. Yes, we bickered (well Luke and I bickered). Yes, Jeanette and Tim said a thousand movie and song quotes that went over Luke, Andrea, and my heads. Yes, we reminisced about the incredible meals we cooked last year. Yes, we sat on the couches in the VVC house talking until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. Even though it had been 7 months since we had been together, it was as if time never passed. We picked up right where we left off in August of 2015. Our year in VVC bonded us in ways that cannot be undone. I could not be more thankful for VVC and the people it has brought into my life. It has given me an extension to my family.

 

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Kelsey McCarty, VVC 2014-15, teaches middle school kids at the Fuller School of Excellence in Chicago, IL. Affectionately coined “Ms. Carty” by the kids she student taught, we are sure her current students regard her with similar affection. Kelsey’s passion for justice and inclusion – especially in the classroom – stand as the foundation of who she is and how she lives her life.

Be inspired. Trust your instincts. Relish in the unknown.

Be inspired. Trust your Instincts. Relish in the unknown.

Be inspired. Trust your instincts. Relish in the unknown.

These are the significant lessons I have learned after giving up the Internet for an entire month.

This was not as much of a sacrifice for me since I have not yet obtained a smart phone, so my usage was solely restricted to my laptop. I was allowed to use the Internet at work, of course, but once I left work, a whole other life began. I could not look up answers to questions that instantly popped into my mind. I could not pass the time aimlessly on Pinterest, the only social media site I indulge in aside from the occasional glance at LinkedIn. Then I began to adjust and compensate by using physical bus schedules instead of Google maps to plan my trips or by filling my time with activities like leisurely reading.

I was most excited about the fact that I now had more time to read, something I have always loved but that had become more of a wish than a reality in the past few years. I longed to soak up the stories and information through the pages as if I were in grade school again, like when I literally used to walk off the bus with my nose in a book or when I was scolded for reading during math class. I was now making even more of an effort to get out and take the bus in order to experience the world with all my senses instead of only with my eyes from behind a screen.

Not only did my habits change during this month, but my thoughts did as well. I was no longer weighed down by the shackles of inundating stimuli that had convinced me to believe that the answers to everything I could ever wish to know were just a click away. Instead, I began to rediscover that sense of spontaneity, curiosity, and wonder that is found through realizing the power within our fingertips and within our interactions with the world and its inhabitants. The sense of imagination that I so valued as a child had returned quite easily, and now, paired with the wisdom I had gained through the years, it seems as though I have the tools to actually make my dreams a reality. Throughout this process, I am also continuing to value the process of making and then learning from my mistakes, which is such a treasured privilege that many seem to dislike and take for granted in this day in age.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a reason we are not meant to know everything. We are finite, limited beings and despite this vast and seemingly beneficial information database of knowledge known as the Internet, we as a human race are continually striving to know all even though this is a feat that cannot realistically be accomplished by one being alone.

So the next time you decide to use the Internet to guide you toward an answer, take a moment to pause. Ask yourself: “Is this something that I can figure out on my own?” “Do I really need to know the answer to this or can I allow myself to find inspiration in the ambiguity?” “Is it absolutely imperative that I find the exact answer right this moment?” You might gain wisdom despite the lack of immediate knowledge or figure it out with your own gifts and talents. Plus, you will always have that safety net as a backup to re-direct you if you stray too far off course.

Jeanette-Selfie

Jeanette “Eunice/Batman/Cool RA of the VVC House” Lesenko uses her encyclopedic knowledge of movie quotes and songs to provide a consistently entertaining substitute for the Internet.  In her free time she imparts nuggets of philosophical wisdom (often shared while actually eating chicken nuggets), leads her community in dramatic reprisals of Les Miserables‘ song “One Day More,” and indoctrinates her friends into sharing her love for the TV show Community.  Next month she hopes to whip her co-workers into shape as the no-bulls*** coach of St. Vincent de Paul’s softball team.

Goodbye, Internet!

no_internet

“Always with you this freedom!  For your walled-up country, always to shout ‘Freedom!  Freedom!’ as if it were obvious to all people what it wants to mean, this word… But what of the freedom-to?  Not just free-from.  Not all compulsion comes from without.”

–David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

January 16, 2016, 2:00p.m.: I spent my evening before with the company of my roommates, and tonight I will see old friends from college.  At this moment, however, I am sitting my room, without obligations and without company.  I have no papers to write, no meetings to attend, no errands to run.

In other words, I’m bored as hell.

I begin to pace back and forth, trying to think of ways to pass the time.  My eyes dart towards the computer lying dormant on my desk; old habits urge me to turn it on.  This impulse is seemingly innocuous: I can simply use it to find some casual entertainment.  I can fill this free time, like most Americans, with Netflix, YouTube, gaming, internet browsing, etc.  And why not?  I worked hard all week; there is no need to use this time productively as well.  I can let these pastimes temporarily command my attention, giving me relief from stress and refreshing me for the upcoming work week.

This impulse, however, is followed almost immediately by disappointment, since these old habits are no longer an option.  I stare at the closed laptop, resenting my decision not to give it power.  In what now seems like a foolish pursuit of voluntary simplicity, Jeanette and I swore off internet for this month.  We agreed to make the old ways of killing time no longer an option, to instead fill the time with more nourishing habits.  But really, “nourishing habits” sounds like an idealistic abstraction in this painfully bland moment.

I lie down over my sheets, place my right hand over my forehead and apply pressure to my temples.  My past self left me to face this boredom without any immediate means of escape.

And it’s awful.

 

January 17, 2016, roughly 24 hours later:  I have just pulled the cord above my right shoulder, signaling the bus to stop at the approaching intersection.  I am determined to resist the mindless, stir-crazy state I found myself in yesterday.  I walk past the familiar ice rink, Chipotle, and fountain on my right and head north in quiet desperation.  At last, I reach the heated, five-story atrium of Cincinnati’s downtown library.  It is here that I hope to reform my leisure practices; it is here that I hope to move past both the unspoken yet looming self-contempt that comes from conventional entertainment habits, and the painfully boring idleness that comes from the habit’s absence.

I immediately notice a strange, out-of-place feeling when visiting this library with the intention of finding a book.  Most library patrons use it only as a refuge, since it is one of the few buildings downtown where people can protect themselves from the weather without buying anything.  Others are there to borrow the public-use computers for seemingly-varied purposes.  A wrinkled white woman, glasses with transparent frames, stares with quiet intensity at the green background of her online solitaire game.  Another patron—a black man, perhaps mid-30s, sporting large, black headphones with a frayed left liner—bobs his head rhythmically to a low-budget music video.  This story repeats itself in dozens of ways across the other screens.  Perhaps this too is a refuge, but naming how is profoundly more difficult.

 

January 27, 2016, 6:00p.m.:  The familiar two-tone beeping of my phone alarm begins to play, reminding me to leave for the approaching bus.  I finish the final essay in David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, check out the films Inside Llewyn Davis and Love and Mercy, and depart into the cold.

There is quiet strength in my strides towards Government Square.  For brief portions I let myself be present to each step, to each breath.  This evening I return to my community, to laugh, to play, to reflect, to engage, to simply be with.  But if everyone is away or preoccupied, I may spend the evening pursuing greater reflection through reading or writing.  I may even play one of the two movies I intentionally chose, but this is the only entertainment I allow for the week.  Those deliberate choices are my only options for the evening, and there is a certain resiliency I feel in knowing this.

The month is almost over, but I do not think I am returning to the internet in my home.  In fact, I do not see me owning an internet subscription in the future.  There is nothing to fear about boredom—it can be the gateway to pursuing our most intimately-held goals.  The mundane is a canvas, and we are called to paint.

 

Justin laughingJustin Worthing, originally from O’Fallon, IL, joins VVC most recently from Xavier University, also a short bus ride from the VVC house. Justin’s intentionality invites his community members deeper into their commitment this year, through creative challenges like this to less committal invitations to join him for a warm beverage or a board game. 

“It’s called perspective.”

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The grandmotherly woman tugged gently on my arm, silently commanding me to stop walking for a moment.

“Oh, the women’s coats in the size you requested are over that way a little more, ma’am,” I said. “Would you like me to bring the rack closer to you?”

We were at St. Vincent de Paul’s second winter coat distribution, and I was just starting the process of helping Mrs. Williams* select a coat for her friend who was in need. It was the end of the day, and most of our clients and volunteers had already said their goodbyes and cleared out of the old warehouse where the distribution was held. I was pretty sure the dear lady had arrived only about a minute before the event was officially over, so it wouldn’t be a problem to move the rack for her… not to mention it could help speed up the process and maybe get everybody out the door a little sooner. After all, my toes were growing a little numb from spending the last few hours in the unheated, drafty old building. Although I had enjoyed the long morning of helping our neighbors, I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday afternoon at the VVC House. I thought through my to-do list, mentally adding that I should take a nap and do my laundry, especially since the knees of my coziest jeans were now filthy from kneeling on the dusty warehouse floor to photograph children in their new coats.

Mrs. William’s voice brought me back to the present. “Don’t worry about moving anything, honey. I’m fine walking. I just want us to stop a minute, because this is just beautiful.” She smiled and turned slowly in a circle, gazing upward the whole time. “Mmm. Look at it. Just beautiful.”

I nodded, thinking she was talking about the Christmas decorations that some volunteers had hung from the ceiling yesterday to make this warehouse, the old Young & Bertke building, a cheerier place to be.  “Yeah, I think a few high schoolers came and helped put up the ornaments and things. They did a good job, didn’t they?”

“Well, yes, they did. But I wasn’t really talking about that. I meant the building itself.”

“Oh… Sorry. The building?”

“Yes, of course. Don’t you think it’s beautiful, honey?”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I almost wanted to laugh, the idea was so foreign. “Actually, I’d be guilty of saying it’s pretty horrible. The lighting in here is bad, everything is dusty, and I think it’s making me sneeze. I don’t know, the walls are gray and the paint is peeling. I feel kind of bad having people come in here, really.”

She shook her head as if she were sorry for me, then smiled. “Oh, no, don’t feel bad. You mean to tell me you’ve been in here taking pictures of kids this whole day and haven’t noticed the beauty of this place? You’re not looking hard enough. Look up. Look around. This place has power. This place has a story.”

She put her hand on my arm again and motioned for me to continue escorting her along our route to the rack of coats. With her free hand, though, she pointed out different architectural aspects she found beautiful.

“Look at that pipe up there. Someone wrote something on it, looks like probably back in 1948. Beautiful. Look at these bricks. See how the light is coming through the window right there? They don’t make buildings like this anymore. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

I grinned. “When you look at it that way, it sure is.”

“That’s why you have to look at things differently sometimes,” she said. “It’s called perspective. I can tell you have perspective, because you’re helping here. You see people that other folks might not see as valuable, but you see what makes them beautiful. Kind of like how I do with this building. We have to see them all as beautiful, see their story and see their potential. What’s your story?”

As we moved to picking out a new coat for her friend, I told her about how I was doing a year of service with St. Vincent de Paul.

She wanted to know how long I would be working there. “I’ll have to come visit you sometime before this August, then. After all, now that we’ve talked a while, I’ll always consider you one of my grandbabies. And you’ll remember me, I know. Just call me Grandmother. I’m so glad I met you today.”

And with that, Grandmother hugged me and took my arm again. As I helped her carry the coat to her car, she told me that what I was doing as a Vincentian Volunteer was beautiful, but all I could do was thank her for the beauty she had brought to my own life that day.

*Name has been changed.

attachment (1)Rachel Eldridge joins us from New Albany, IN, by way of Indiana Wesleyan University. Rachel has many perspectives through which she sees the work of St. Vincent de Paul, as she splits her time putting her Communications degree to work with our Community Relations department and working directly with our neighbors in need in Social Services. Rachel’s thoughtfulness shines not only through this story, but also in her daily interactions with clients, staff, volunteers, and her VVC community members alike.