In his “Richness of Many Years of Life” address, Pope Francis declared that “Old age is not a disease; it is a privilege.” Jerry Alexander, IVC New Orleans volunteer, embodies that statement. When he told his regional director in spring of 2022 that he was diagnosed with cancer, he softened the blow by saying, “Well, at 80 years old, I’m on bonus time. The good news is that we caught it early, and my doctor told me I’m likely to die of something other than the cancer.”
A couple of months later, he reached out to his director again and asked to be reconnected to service. Now he works with DePaul USA at the Rebuild Center in downtown New Orleans helping people find stable housing and access the supports they need to maintain stability.
He immediately hit it off with his supervisor when he offered to be her 2nd baseman or utility infield player. For those of us who don’t follow baseball terminology, that means that he offered to do whatever would be of best use to the agency. And she knew she could rely on him. That included soliciting donations for their annual gala. It also included organizing and taking inventory of their supply closet with items collected for and distributed to newly housed individuals. Often it means driving clients to medical or legal appointments so they don’t have to rely on public transportation. While accompanying these individuals, he can also be an emotional support advocate and help them better understand what the professionals are saying.
“I could just cook meals at the parish to send to the homeless — which is important work — but meeting them where they are changes me.”
On Opening Day in September, the service corps members were asked why they participate in IVC. Jerry responded, “Six months ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My service with IVC gives me a deeper purpose for my life than anything else I do.”
In the same address, Pope Francis declared that “Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for each one and for others. Always, it is always so.” Jerry’s participation in IVC New Orleans and service work with DePaul USA is certainly a reciprocal gift that benefits everyone: a privilege for Jerry as well as for the IVC community, the staff of DePaul USA, and the people he serves.