5 Myths About VVC

There are many misconceptions about doing a year of service. This post looks to dispel some of these myths about a year of service in general, and more specifically about VVC.

Myth #1: I won’t be able to pay student loans or other bills

Fact #1: For student loans, VVCs receive assistance to put their loans in deferment status for the duration of the program. In addition, VVCs are granted an Education Award (for ’17-’18, it was in the amount of $5,815) upon completion of the program to pay for past loans or future schooling. Mary Ellen, a 2nd-year volunteer writes, “I was not able to put that much money toward my student loans in an entry-level job right out of college, so this was a great benefit for me.”

In addition, all basic needs are covered by the program, including rent, utilities, health and renter’s insurance, as well as stipends for cell phones, transportation, and personal use.

Myth #2: I’m not Catholic, so I don’t belong in VVC.

Fact #2: While St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic organization, the VVC program is intentionally diverse. People of all faith backgrounds are encouraged to apply because the diversity of belief adds to the richness of community. We all have something to learn from each other. Phyllis, a current volunteer says,

 “I have never felt judged because of my denomination, which I am allowed to practice without any restrictions. When we all get together to discuss spirituality, we are bonded together by the universal principles of love, respect and service. These are the beliefs VVCs stand for.”

Myth #3: Intentional community seems too intense; I need to keep up with other relationships.

Fact #3: Intentional community certainly does not mean anyone is cut off from the outside world. Family members, significant others, and other friends are all vital relationships, and making time for those people is important. VVC does challenge you to make your community a priority, but that does not mean you are cut off from the other people in your life. David (VVC 2017-18) explains,

“You are going to have a life outside of community, and that’s understandable and ok. Intentional community is more about being intentional about the time you spend together, rather than spending all the time together.”

Myth #4: My role won’t be relevant. I will only be doing the work of an intern.

Fact #4: On the contrary, VVCs are an integral part of the staff at St. Vincent de Paul. They are tasked with contributing to major projects in a meaningful way, giving their honest opinions, and making real contributions toward the organization. Many alumni were granted their next step after the program year directly because of the professional work they did as a VVC.

Myth #5: As a Cincinnati resident, I don’t have anything new to learn from here.

Fact #5: A number of VVCs have had previous ties to the Cincinnati area, but that does not mean there is nothing left to gain from serving in a local program. Jack, a VVC, and lifelong Cincinnatian, writes,

“This year is unique to the previous parts of my life in Cincinnati, and gives me a new perspective from which to see my hometown and its people, because I am now an adult, out of school, and living intentionally in the West End community.”

To hear more of Jack’s thoughts on doing a year of service in his hometown, read his blog entry.


Hopefully, this was able to dismiss any myths you may have about VVC. To find out more, visit our website and like us on Facebook!


Our Community

by Rene Betance

Where would I be without community?

Five of us. One from Nigeria, one from Cleveland, one from Wisconsin, one from New Jersey, and finally one from Mexico. A relatively strange group of people if you’re looking from the outside. We all have a very different way of engaging with the world. The five people that signed up for a year of service with St. Vincent de Paul all took very different paths to get here. Yet we have shared in that fulfillment, struggle, community, and passion that comes with being a VVC.

Given the craziness that has been my life the past year, I believe it is fair that I can’t peacefully say that this has been a great year. I’d be lying to you if living in community wasn’t one of my initial reservations about this year of service. You just never know who you’re going to live with. I was taking a chance with living with four strangers. But I can gladly say that these four friends of mine have helped me to overcome a year of political turmoil and change.

Regardless of where you stood during the election, the political climate in the United States is at a point of contention unlike any I’ve ever seen. That certainly made me feel a little hopeless about the direction of this country. Yet having the community I did, along with our ability to have productive political dialogues, made one of the most complicated political realities bearable.

The intensity of the work at St. Vincent de Paul can be daunting for people joining the workforce for the first time, then add in adjusting to a 8:00-4:30 schedule while trying to manage the emotions that come with seeing people who are experiencing levels of urban poverty we were not previously aware of. Despite all of the obvious challenges that a year of service brings, I don’t believe I speak alone in saying the benefits of a year of service, especially being in community, are invaluable.

After our midyear retreat for VVC, I had time to reflect on the progress that we’ve made as a community. Last time we were all on retreat, we were playing Uno and asking awkward questions about each other. Now we’re taking personality tests and saying how each of us fit our personality types. “Oh Fare, you’re such a 9!”

The important question is, how did we get here? I look at our progress as a result of vulnerability, intentional conversations, and challenge. Community hasn’t been easy; there were certainly moments that really frustrated me. I willingly take those frustrations with the joy community has brought me. The next five months are what get me excited. I can’t wait to see how we grow in the next months because, as of now, I don’t know where I’d be without community.


Rene Betance spent his first few years in Chihuahua, Mexico, before bouncing around Texas and Ohio. The Xavier grad has a knack for conversation, will tell it like it is, and has never been sarcastic in his life.

Living the Year of Mercy Beyond 2016

Through VVC, I am able to live the Corporal Works of Mercy and my faith in an active, tangible way.

By Mary Ellen Ostrowski

As I look back on 2016, I am struck with how blessed I was to be able to spend part of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy in such a meaningful way, through becoming a VVC and working as a Patient Advocate at St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati.

Through VVC, I am able to live the Corporal Works of Mercy and my faith in an active, tangible way. I am able to comfort the sick through my role as a patient advocate, assisting neighbors in receiving life-saving medication. I cloth the naked, by giving thrift store clothing vouchers to neighbors who sometimes only had the clothes on their backs. I help feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty by assisting in the Choice Food Pantry. I am able to (hopefully) be Christ to those that walked through the doors of our Outreach Center. I pray with people, listen to people, and give encouraging words to people. And even though looking back it seems like only a drop in the bucket, like it was a futile attempt to try and do something in a world so full of problems, I am reminded that even serving one soul makes it all worth it.

A quote attributed to Mother Teresa (a woman who exemplified living the works of mercy) sums it up perfectly, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” As I continue this VVC year of service in 2017, I am challenged to continue having an attitude of mercy with neighbors, with my community, and with myself.

But I encourage anyone reading this to also continue living a year of mercy every year. Do something. Do something big, small, short term, long term, helping one neighbor or a whole community, just do something. Have an encounter of mercy with your own neighbors. Remember that even seemingly small acts of kindness like sharing food or clothing can have an immense effect on those you serve and on your own life as well. Don’t let the immensity of the world’s problems cause you to be complacent or indifferent.

Don’t be afraid to make ripples! You never know what effect they will have on the world.


Grounded in her faith, Mary Ellen has an optimistic outlook on life. Through intentional decision making and dedication to personal prayer and reflection, Mary Ellen strives to grow as an individual on a daily basis.