“I came here from Colombia and saw how generous people were as they helped us,” says Francisco Ruiz. “I saw how they volunteered and helped with so much love and passion and I thought, ‘Wow, I want to be a part of that.’”
And, for the past eight years, Francisco has been. He’s one of our faithful and dedicated Vincentians—our term for the volunteers of SVdP who desire to put their faith into action through the gift of their heart, friendship and time.
The first time he volunteered—taking food to a blind man—he felt like he saw Jesus in that man’s face. He got so much out of the experience, he wanted to do it again—and again and again.
“It’s given me joy and spiritual growth,” Francisco shares. “I’m grateful to be a part of it. It has changed my life.”
He’s not alone. Tamara Carr feels much the same way.
Help Line Volunteers are First Contact
As a Help Line volunteer, Tamara is often a person’s first contact with SVdP. And her calming, helpful nature is a blessing to all who are on the other end of the phone.
“I just love working with people and I want to make their life easier by connecting them with resources,” she says.
She does it well. After years in the medical field, she’s familiar with people in crisis—stressed, worried and unsure of how to resolve their issues. And she’s made it her mission to uncover as many available community resources as possible to help them.
“I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to resourcing,” says Tamara. “I won’t let go until I find some resource for them.”
Home Visitors Make Connections
Tamara (left photo) is one of about 35 volunteers for SVdP’s Help Line. Led by Volunteer Coordinator Pat Rapp (right photo), team members work two-hour shifts to field calls four days a week. After an “in-take” discussion to understand the needs, the Help Line volunteer contacts the nearest local Conference (parish) participating in SVdP’s Home Visitor program. That’s when Conference volunteers like Francisco take over.
These two programs, in particular, are where the heart of Vincentians come together at the Council and the Conference level. Together, Council and Conference volunteers work to address the needs of people in our local communities. They serve strangers as if they were serving Jesus.
Pat says the Conferences contact the person to make an appointment. They usually provide a voucher to the SVdP Distribution Center where the person can find many of the items they need. If money is needed for rent or utilities, they discuss how they can help. And in cases where the Conference can’t help them, they work hard to connect them to local organizations that can. Additionally, some Conferences, like St. Joan of Arc, provide people with vouchers to stores like Meijer or Aldi.
Pat says the Help Line receives about 150 calls each month. So while the Help Line and the Home Visitor program try to respond as quickly as possible, it can take a few weeks, depending on what’s needed and the resources of the responding Conference.
Unfortunately, SVdP can’t always meet every need that comes in. In those cases, Tamara and many others try to provide other resources that may be useful. For example, when Tamara learned one of her callers was pregnant, she connected her to a local resource that provided free prenatal care and baby items.
Treating People Like Jesus
“We understand that we are the voice of SVdP—but we are representing more than SVdP,” says Pat. “We are Jesus’ mouth, hands and feet, and we treat everyone as we would treat Jesus.”