Ignatian Volunteer Wanda Dean is in her fourth year serving with Catholic Charities in Richland County, Ohio. She spends most of her time there working in the food pantry—stocking shelves, initiating a food drive with 9 area high schools, and helping with food distribution.
“The need is staggering. Our county, our economy, has never fully recovered,” Wanda says. In just the last quarter of 2013, the pantry served 4,774 people and distributed 38,522 pounds of food.
The pantry is set up like a small grocery store where clients can shop for the items that they need based on their family size and food preferences. Wanda accompanies shoppers as they make their selections. “The set up honors the dignity of people, since they are empowered to make some choices,” she says.
“The opportunity to journey with folks for a short moment in time is a blessing. It’s humbling to me.”
“One day, an older gentleman came in. His stench was overpowering. As I was walking with him through the small loop that is our grocery store, I found the grace to see Christ in him. And then I thought, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ My service brings home in a real sense what’s important.”
“It’s not that I go there as a do-gooder, but I go in the spirit of being a companion to them,” says Wanda.
“My daughter has inspired me in her walk of faith, as she gave in a big way, spending two years in service with JVC International. When I was nearing retirement, she was home for a visit and gave me an IVC brochure. I had wondered what I could do when I retired, to have some impact,” Wanda describes.
“In my four years with IVC, I’ve truly realized that it’s not how grand the activity is, it’s finding the extraordinary in the ordinary days. It’s like Mother Teresa’s quote, ‘We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love.’ In the little things that I do—whether it’s extending a hand to my neighbor or serving through Catholic Charities—I have the opportunity to serve.”
Wanda came to IVC after a thirty-five year career in education, first as a second-grade and special education teacher and later as an elementary school principal. “As educators, our missions were always focused on being life-long learners. I just see IVC as an extension of this. We evolve and change and grow and never stop learning. For anyone who wants to continue staying active, keeping their adrenaline moving as we get older, IVC is a great opportunity!”
“We’re reading Tattoos on the Heart as the national reflection book this year, and in Cleveland, we’ve had speakers at our monthly meetings—police officers, community neighborhood workers who work with gang-involved youth, and others. This brings a real element to the book study and brings it to life. It has been an extraordinary experience and I’m learning so much.”
“There’s something special about this small community that we’ve formed of Ignatian Volunteers. The Ignatian Spirituality component is lived out in all of the service that we each do. You do find God in everything and God in everyone. There’s a real joy in giving, and we can do this in very ordinary ways. The reflection unveils the beauty.”