After spending a few years enjoying retirement: traveling with my wife Virginia and trying to improve a deteriorating golf game; I developed a deeply felt desire to use the gifts and talents God gave me to help people in need. Virginia and I both came to the same conclusion. After we talked with friends in IVC and attending a few IVC functions we decided to join up.
Initially, I was hard to place. I have a varied background as an engineer, program manager, systems cost analyst, program evaluator, and financial and management consultant. But, through the hard work, vision and genius of Joanie Coolidge, the Northern Virginia IVC Regional Director, I was placed with ACTS to help their new CEO re-organize the program.
ACTS (Actions in Community Through Service), is a human service organization in Prince William County, Virginia. It was founded about 50 years ago when 13 churches came together to provide for a family who lost their home to a fire. They eventually formed an independent non-profit 501(c).
ACTS provides emergency shelter for families; support services such as food; direct financial assistance; and a Thrift Store that provides free clothing and lots of other items.
ACTS also operates ‘Help Lines’ that provide 24-hour phone service. The service deals with Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Suicide.
A most remarkable thing happened recently. A trained staff member answered a Help Line call from a person considering suicide and talked the person out of it. A few days later, this person called back and thanked the person who saved his or her life.
The Help Line also regularly contacts the elderly, those living alone or caring for a spouse, to check on their well-being.
The new CEO is knowledgeable, bright, energetic and welcoming. We discussed a number of ways that I could help in his effort to put the organization on a firm footing. Initially, among other activities, I was to help with the varied aspects of teambuilding and to measure program impacts.
Initially I was concerned that I would be far removed from dealing directly with the people in need. However, I found that I’ve learned much about the people being served through my close association with the staff.
Working with the staff a few decades younger than me gave me new insights into the current generation and their zeal to help those in need. I was impressed with their tireless efforts to help not only the needy but to help each other in their daily work . They also are starting to see themselves as part of a greater effort and not constrained to their specific jobs. This may be partially due to the re-organization which focused on getting separate units to work across lines of the organization and help each other, but I believe it is also a genuine desire to help “thy neighbor” regardless of their status and differing organizational boundaries.
There are also other little things that I have witnessed as different with this generation. For example, in the coffee room in the central office area there is a “white board” with a hand written question on the top. WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR TODAY? The board usually contains all kinds of positive remarks from the staff about their families and other staff. Even I got a message a few weeks ago, “Joe Rocks!”
To me the wonder is that in this hectic, stress-filled environment they take time to celebrate the goodness in people and share the love for one another. This sounds very Christian to me.
After my first six months with IVC I have been tremendously rewarded spiritually. I hope that my involvement has helped ACTS along the way to a firmer footing.
Another real IVC gift, aside from my assignment with ACTS, has been my IVC City Group meetings at Saint Joseph’s Church in Alexandria. I had no idea how important these meetings would be to me. They provide me with a new perspective on my spiritual life, one I had long desired but had not found. Needless to say I always look forward to the readings and the discussions.
I guess I’ll be around for a while with IVC, “God willing” as my mom would say.