Anita Healy O’Neill of IVC Baltimore works three days a week at the Franciscan Center and is one of the first faces to greet clients entering this multiservice agency. Christian Metzger, Acting Executive Director, says, “Anita is a pleasure to be around. She shares our mission to treat people with dignity and to give people a new start. Every time I see her in here, she’s living it.”
The center provides an extensive menu of services ranging from meals, emergency assistance, transportation, referrals for medical care, among other programs. Anita meets with clients and screens them for their eligibility for gas and electric heating assistance. The relationships she’s formed across agencies create a web of service “to make things work for our clients”.
“Through her work, Anita has enabled the Franciscan Center to serve many more clients and has increased our capacity several times over”, describes Christian Metzger. “She is giving way more hours than her commitment. This shows how much she cares and really wants to help people.
Her presence has been a great partnership, since it’s something that she enjoys and fits into her skill set. Because of her efforts navigating complex formulas, we have been able to take on a new program that has provided over $80,000 of emergency assistance funds. She really stepped up to take on this program and make it work.”
Now in her third year in IVC and her second at the Franciscan Center in Baltimore, Anita has had a tremendous impact. “As I was thinking about retirement, the notion of IVC kept coming up and wouldn’t go away,” she states. “I felt an almost irresistible urge to do IVC. Saying ‘yes’ to IVC was helpful to me in making my decision to retire, since I was retiring to something positive”.
“I had done much volunteering over my entire career, but IVC is a unique experience because of the spirituality piece. Ignatian spirituality combined with service to the poor has been a rewarding and surprising journey.”
Anita finds joy in her volunteer experience. The stories she shares are those in which she works collaboratively to meet client needs. Successes include securing an apartment for someone living in an abandoned building, helping a client at risk of eviction, and responding to a need for blankets for children. “It is sometimes miraculous what we can do working in partnership”, she says.
“As a result of my IVC experience, I am more comfortable talking about my relationship with God. It’s not only because of the spiritual reflection, but through my interactions with clients at the Franciscan Center. They are living on the margins and are comfortable saying, ‘God will take care of that’. They’ve made me more comfortable with that trust and those conversations. I’m grateful for that.”
Of her experience at the Franciscan Center, she states, “I’m grateful to every client I have the privilege to serve. For at the Franciscan Center, I witness God’s grace at work every single day — in all our lives. And I see first-hand the miracles as clients regain their dignity and rebuild their lives.”
[Pictured above: Anita Healy O’Neill working with a client at the Franciscan Center in Baltimore]