An Ignatian Volunteer’s Story

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Our volunteers in Los Angeles have such wonderful stories to share.  Here is a feature article from a recent IVC national newsletter.

Ignatian Volunteer Jesse Coronado (second row, right) with a group of Volunteers and Habitat Partner the Gomez Family, on a build site.

Ignatian Volunteer Jesse Coronado (second row, right) with a group of Volunteers and Habitat Partner the Gomez Family, on a build site.

Jesse Coronado receives inspiration from Pope Francis’ words, “Works of love directed to one’s neighbor are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit,” from The Joy of the Gospel.

Jesse is an Ignatian Volunteer in Los Angeles, serving with Habitat for Humanity. His love for Habitat’s mission began years ago while working for the US State Department during a three-year tour in Portugal, where he led teams of employees from the embassy on a Habitat International building project. After retiring from the State Department in 2012, Jesse knew he wanted to continue serving his local community, and found IVC.

“Life is much more beautiful when you share what you have with others,” he says. “I have the opportunity to do this through IVC.”

Jesse collaborates with Chris Untiet, Associate Director of Faith Relations on the Habitat LA Catholic Coalition effort, Catholic churches, schools, and organizations that work together to raise funds and provide volunteers to build one home a year in Los Angeles. He works to increase membership in the Coalition through outreach to parishes, preparing and sending newsletters, organizing informational meetings, inviting pastors to events to learn more about Habitat’s mission. The Catholic Coalition has grown over the past two years and now has about 30 churches and organizations participating, and the goal is further growth.

“Los Angeles is one of the most expensive housing markets in the United States and there is an immense need for affordable housing,” Jesse describes. “Our goal is to raise $150,000 each year among the Catholic Coalition Partners. That’s the cost to build one house, plus we receive many donations of materials and lots of volunteer hours.”

“Habitat for Humanity gives a family a chance to completely transform themselves by owning a home. Thousands of families apply each year, and once a family is approved, the home is built to their specifications. They aren’t cookie cutter homes, they are made especially for them.”

“We had one family with four generations of women – a great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and two daughters. The house was built for their needs. And now, for the first time in their lives, the children are able to thrive. They each have their own rooms, have dedicated space to study, and the daughter is applying to colleges.”

“It’s uplifting. That’s one of the big thrills,” Jesse says. “The opportunity to go visit the volunteers on the build sites, to pray with them, to eat lunch together, and to see family members working side by side with volunteers to build their home is amazing. The Habitat model also means that the family who will own the house puts in 250 to 400 ‘sweat-equity’ hours.”

“We have a strong relationship with the partner families. When we have a house dedication ceremony and turn over the keys to the family, lots of tears fly between volunteers, donors, staff, and clergy.”

“Our Catholic Coalition Partners and volunteers catch ‘habititis’. It is very contagious and makes you feel wonderful about helping an individual or family to attain the dream of owning a home!”

“Of course, the work is challenging”, Jesse says, “but just when I need a pick-me-up, there is our monthly IVC meeting. It is both humbling and motivating to be able to share stories with our fellow IVC colleagues. Such a special part of the IVC program is getting together with the other Volunteers, reflecting on God’s mercy and compassion, and expressing ourselves. We support and pray for each other. It’s like the gravy on the whole program. It’s so beautiful. We have a very supportive and spiritual IVC group.”

“Our IVC experience includes two retreats a year, which is time to reflect and reenergize. It fires us up again to keep moving ahead with our projects.”

“I feel very blessed to be a member of IVC,” Jesse says.

Archbishop José H. Gomez joined Habitat for Humanity LA, the Catholic Coalition and other church clergy to bless seven new residences built for families in the City of Lynwood.         Photo by Victor Alemán.