Catholic Social Service volunteers
Love in action
By REBECCA FORD
Catholic Social Service
“I just thought it would be fun!”
“It was a good way to get out and see a lot of people.”
“It was a way to help a friend” . . . “to help someone out” . . . “to help the community.”
These were just some of the responses given by the dozens of volunteers who helped out with the Catholic Social Service Wine Tasting Event which celebrated the Catholic Charity Centennial this past spring. One could judge the success of that event in many ways: the money raised for people in need; the good time had by all; the publicity for a good cause . . . .
From a coordinator’s standpoint, I must also add that, collectively, our volunteers were one of the best parts of the entire event—from initial planning to the final days of sorting, cleaning, and putting away. As an unknown author once said, “No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank you.” Now more than ever, volunteer gifts of time and energy are emerging as expressions of God’s enduring love in a weary world. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, even as individuals grappled with lack of time, financial instability and economic recession, the number of volunteers increased in 2009 from 61.8 million to 63.4 million—the largest single year increase since 2003. Across the country, the top four activities for service include fundraising, collecting and distributing food, general labor or transportation, and tutoring or teaching. Significantly, Kansas ranks eighth in the nation for volunteer service.
For Catholic Charities, volunteers are quite literally the backbone of our network. In 2007, volunteers made up 76 percent of the total workforce of Catholic Charities with about a quarter of a million volunteers and board members donating 7,571,708 hours of service!
This past year, two of our volunteers at Catholic Social Service were AmeriCorps members. Since 1994, nearly 500,000 AmeriCorps members have served with thousands of nonprofit organizations, public agencies and faith-based organizations to meet critical needs in the community. In return for their service, AmeriCorps members receive a very modest stipend and an education award to pay for college or student loans. We are presently looking people who are interested in the 2010-2011 AmeriCorps positions in Great Bend and Dodge City to help people and families who are experiencing economic hardship in southwest Kansas. An ability to speak Spanish is helpful. If you are interested, call Pattie McGurk at (620) 792-1393.
Fred Kammer, former Director of CCUSA, tells a favorite story that took place in a Midwest diocese where Catholic Charities had established a home for single, pregnant women in the former convent of an active parish.
One Sunday after Mass, a man rang the doorbell of the home and introduced himself to the staff member who answered. He said he was a parishioner and that for several Sundays at Mass he had experienced a strong sense that God wanted him to volunteer at the home. But, because of his profession, he did not believe that he would be able to help. So he had waited to respond until, this Sunday, the sense of God’s call could not be resisted any longer.
The staff member asked what he did for a living. He said he was a computer programmer. He was shocked by how excited she became. A computer company had donated to Catholic Charities several computers, software, and the necessary accessories to create a computer lab in the home, but none of the staff or residents knew how to make them work. They all still sat in the boxes in which they had been delivered. He was the answer to their prayers! Soon, the computers were networked, the software installed, and the volunteer was teaching residents (and staff) how to learn computer skills, write their resumes, and prepare themselves for computer-related jobs.
Catholic Social Service isn’t looking for a computer programmer, but we are looking for a special carpenter/handyman to help us fix up a special place for the Teen Moms program. Presently, the Catholic Social Service office in Dodge City sits on a large and unfinished basement. We’d like to transform this space into a comfortable and cozy space for the Teen Mom’s program and store, for counseling sessions, and for some of our other programs and services. Do you know someone who could help?
These are just a couple of the volunteer opportunities available at Catholic Social Service. For others, please visit our website at http://catholicsocialservice.org/support-css/volunteers.
This year, as we celebrate the centennial of Catholic Charities, we also celebrate our volunteers whose gifts of time and energy lighten the load, give expression to God’s enduring love in a weary world, and make a difference in our southwest Kansas communities. Again, we must say “thank you!”