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By Jim Koerber, President, Southern Indiana District

 Traditionally speaking, volunteering can be broadly defined as donating your time—usually for a good cause. In the SVdP Southern Indiana District, volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Being a Vincentian (volunteer), you meet different kinds of people and make new friends. With the seven conferences in the district, our more than 100 volunteers help families and individuals (neighbors) in four counties (Clark, Crawford, Floyd and Harrison) who are suffering, homeless or economically disadvantaged.

Since we do not operate a thrift store, we rely on donations to assist our neighbors with rent, utilities, household and kitchen items, clothing and food. We have provided families with beds so kids no longer have to sleep on the floor. Over a three-month period, one conference helped 23 families move from homelessness to housing. The volunteers provided basic living essentials (household and kitchen items, furniture, beds, etc.) and assisted them moving into affordable housing. This means physically loading, unloading and helping them set up in their new living arrangements. Without volunteers, this assistance probably would not have happened.

This past Thanksgiving, hundreds of baskets of groceries and turkeys/hams were distributed to families by volunteers. In several locations, we had local school kids help prepare and distribute the baskets. Being a volunteer makes you feel part of something outside of your friends and family. It has a real and valuable positive affect on people, communities and society in general. In our district, the volunteers gain confidence by having the chance to try something new and build a real sense of achievement. They become passionate about our cause and organization.

Being a volunteer also allows you to challenge yourself to try something different, achieve personal goals, practice using your skills and discover hidden talents. This is especially true during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is necessary to find new ways to help our neighbors. Most importantly, it allows us to join together in a bond of friendship, while also growing spiritually as we offer personal services to those who are suffering and in need.

Typically, our conference members (volunteers) participate in an annual commitment ceremony and, in some cases, recruit new members over a designated weekend. Meanwhile, any parishioner who is interested in becoming a volunteer can contact conference members or their parish office. Being a volunteer is a way to put our faith into action to serve those who are in need of our help.

Lastly, sometimes as volunteers, the encounters can be stressful. I remind volunteers that we are  committed to respecting the dignity of those we serve, fostering self-respect, and establishing relationships based on trust and friendships—all while having a great time fulfilling our mission of charity and justice.