Volunteer Stories

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Sue Ivory at St. Vincent de Paul’s GED Program Winton Hills

Before Thanksgiving each student wrote an essay, paragraph or poem about their blessings.  I was so moved by some of their comments:

  • my son does not have a criminal record and is on track to graduate from high school
  • I have custody of my granddaughter and can spend so much time with her
  • I’m the “screw up” in the family but my sisters call me almost every day and sometimes it’s just to say “I love you.” or “You can pass this test”.

Sometimes we forget the poor have hopes and dreams for their families just like we do.  Success for them can not be measured in a traditional way.  But when it happens they find the strength to move forward to reach their next goal.


sue Lennert 13Sue Lennert at Churches Active in Northside

April 20th 2014  David came in for groceries today.  He told me how he had gotten money to get his medicine the last time he visited CAIN.  He had been suffering from a fungus infection that had spread all over his body because he didn’t have the money to buy the medicine the clinic doctor had prescribed.  Cathy (0f CAIN) had gotten the money to pay for his meds.  He was thankful.  The infection had finally cleared up!  He was so happy!  It was a delight to talk with him and experience his gratitude for CAIN.

April 15th 2014  Today Michael went down the Freestore to pick out fresh produce.  He was able to get an amazing amount of beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables.  I helped John shop.  He is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. He was so happy picking out fresh produce.  He had such a great smile!  I could really experience Jesus in John’s happy face!

She Taught Me a Thing or Two by Michael Heinrichs

There was an elderly woman who came in for food assistance toward the end of the month.  Her other resources had run out due to a couple extraordinary expenses that month.  Nevertheless, she praised the Lord for his gift of life, and although she was uncertain about how she would get by, she was unbelievably optimistic that the Lord would watch over her and provide.  She mentioned that she had recently put her last $6 in the Sunday collection at church, and that afternoon someone who owed her money showed up and repaid her $20.  She saw God’s hand in every helping hand in her life, and she believed that she too is sometimes moved to be that helping hand to someone else.  What an uplifting person!  Just that morning at the pharmacy, she had run into a stranger who was very upset about her prescriptions to the point of arguing and getting loud at the pharmacist.  My guest said she just went up to the lady—whom she did not know—and told her that the woman needed a hug.  Our guest would not back away until the agitated woman relented and received the comforting hug of our guest.  She felt—and certainly convinced me—that each of us in placed in positions by God where we can help someone in trouble.  That day she taught me a thing or two!


Women of Cincinnati by Sue Lennert

Today I met with 2 inspiring great-grandmothers. We have quite a few grandmas raising their grandchildren. That takes so much energy and patience. I love to have my grandchildren visit but I am always happy to send them home after the visit.  [Denise], however, is a great-grandma raising 4 great-grandsons. She is elderly and frail but she takes good care of those boys—one is 17 and the other 3 are in their 20s. [Cleo] is always upbeat but is also tired and suffering with arthritis. She is raising 5 great-grandchildren ages 1 to 7.  I am in awe of these amazing women!

I answered a knock on our door.  [Lilly] said she wanted to give her tithe to CAIN. She has been getting food at the CAIN pantry for the last few years. She closed her eyes and said a prayer. Then she handed me $50—her tithe. Wow! She still needs help from the pantry but is giving back a portion of her income to help others.  It is easy to give from our abundance but not so easy to give when we ourselves are in need. Reminds me of a New Testament story!

Today I filled out food stamp applications for 2 women. I am haunted by their circumstances. [Shani] is a beautiful woman from Africa. She has been in the U.S. for about 8 years. She has been living quite comfortably with her husband and son. Two months ago her husband left her. Now she has to fend for herself and her son. I feel so sorry for her! She has no income and no family. She can’t afford her apartment or her utility bills and has no food.

[Fatima] has worked hard all her life. She is divorced and has no children. She hasn’t been wealthy but has been living within her means. Diabetes and arthritis have caused her to become disabled.  She can no longer work. She is behind in her rent and utilities and has no food.

Both of these women have seen their fortunes change drastically in a very short time. They were fine 2 months ago and now are in very difficult circumstances. I am quite worried about them. How will they survive?

Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the women in this reflection.


In Awe of their Courage by Frank Wassermann

Catholic Social Services of Cincinnati operates as the local refugee resettlement agency of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which sponsors refugees referred by the U.S. State Department. In addition to resettlement assistance—housing, job referral and training, cash, health care, food stamps—the agency provides ongoing “immigration counseling” services to the refugees. This includes various kinds of services the refugees need to help them adjust to their new life. The agency has been facing cutbacks due to loss of financial support from the diocese which has put a strain on its ability to fully serve the refugees.

As an Ignatian Volunteer, with my background as an attorney, I am assisting the regular staff by providing counseling on immigration issues—primarily helping refugees obtain permanent residency (the “green card”) and bring other family members to the United States. U.S. immigration policy offers several special programs which enable refugees to bring close relatives to join them without the long waits of regular family immigration. Parents, spouses, and minor children can come to the U.S. under these programs.

Most of the people I encounter come from Africa, especially the eastern “horn” area—Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Eritrea. I have also worked with refugees from Cuba to Nepal. Through my work, I have compiled a manual on immigration issues to help other volunteers, such as the social work students from local universities, to also do this work on behalf of future refugees.

I am awed by the courage and resiliency of these people in undertaking a new life in the United States, after their many hardships living as refugees abroad, as they struggle with language and cultural barriers. It is a privilege to meet them and help them secure legal status in the United States and bring family members to join them in this country.


Don’t Judge by Sue Lennert

When I first met Nancy at CAIN (a social service agency/food pantry), I noticed that she was well-dressed and drove a very nice car.  I wondered why she was going to a food pantry.

Did she really need it?

I had a nice talk with her today.  What a remarkable woman!  She is 63 and raising her 3rd group of foster children.  She decided when her own kids were grown that she didn’t want to sit home ruminating on her problems (she’d had breast cancer), so she took in some foster kids—just girls at first.  She has now raised about 18 of them.  Most have done very well.  They often come back to visit.

She is strict with them.  She tells them she will respect them if they respect her.  If she has trouble with the kids fighting, she will call the police.  One visit from the police and the kids shape up.  She has accomplished so much with these kids—black and white, boys and girls.

I really admire her!  Another reminder not to judge people—you may not understand their story.