Mary Claytor: Family Focus, Aurora
I volunteer at Family Focus in Aurora. It is a Chicago based non-profit dedicated to supporting and strengthening families in and with their communities. Some of the programs offered are early childhood home visitation, parenting classes, after school programming, ESL classes, and immigration services. I work with DACA clients, provide mentoring to the after-school program and am laying the foundation to start an ESL class.
I am amazed at the spirit of the people who walk through the door. They have so many obstacles in their path, yet they keep trying for a better life for themselves and their children. Their hope is palpable.
The staff truly love what they do. They are committed to showing compassion to every person. Their patience and kindness overwhelm me at times. No matter the request, they try to help make life easier for another.
Bill Kniest: Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Waukegan
My volunteer site is at the James Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. It is the only federal health care center in the country and is comprised of the North Chicago VA Hospital and the medical facilities for the Great Lakes Naval Base. I assist vets with the VA’s online personal health record known as My Healthe Vet. which helps the veteran in managing their healthcare. Registration, instruction on navigating the site, and helping recall user ID’s and passwords are part of the duties that fall under this assignment.
When I started at Lovell, I wasn’t sure about my assignment, and then I stumbled upon St Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ. He was a Jesuit brother and door keeper at a college in Spain for 45 years in the early 17th Century. He experienced many trials during this time, but whenever someone knocked on the door he would reply “I’m coming, Jesus.” I have come to see that although it is not “heroic,” what I’m doing does help people.
Recently, the position has evolved into a sort of concierge service where we assist whoever comes to the desk in finding who or what they’re looking for in the hospital. My Healthe Vet is still our main purpose. But irregardless of the duties in the past six-and-a-half years I am always challenged to see Christ in others.
Michael McGillicuddy: Kolbe House Jail Ministry, Chicago
Compelled by the Gospel mandate, “I was in prison and you visited me,” Kolbe House is a sanctuary for those impacted by incarceration seeking to promote restoration and reconciliation through outreach, support and accompaniment. We follow the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe to love and hope in the midst of evil and despair. Through this ministry, the merciful love of the Father is shared…
…with the incarcerated, whom we serve as God’s beloved daughters and sons.
…with their families, to surround them with love and let them know they are not alone.
…with community members, to help see how we are all connected and affected by
…with the larger culture, inviting all to see in the incarcerated our own brothers and sisters.
As one of two Ignatian Volunteers at Kolbe House, I serve in various capacities. I network with other organizations whose mission overlaps with Kolbe House’s mission, accompany individuals during the critical early months after their release from detention or incarceration, accompany family members during the stressful period when their loved one is under criminal justice control, conduct groups within Cook County Jail, and manage Kolbe House’ food pantry. In all these tasks, my hope is to be a presence available to listen without judgment and share the Good News that God has plans to give each person a hope and a future.
Read more volunteer profiles in the archives.