May 8, 2015

Volunteers at Catholic Charities epitomize love of neighbor

Among those recognized for years of service during the Catholic Charities’ volunteer dinner on April 13 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis are, front row, Karen Boyer, left, (10 years); Florine Harrington (10 years); Linda Hegeman (five years); and Fran Doyle (10 years). Second row: Richard Moore (10 years); David Bethuram, agency director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis; Jim Schutter (five years); and Ed Doyle (10 years). Not pictured is Jane Keller, who was recognized for five years of volunteer service. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Among those recognized for years of service during the Catholic Charities’ volunteer dinner on April 13 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis are, front row, Karen Boyer, left, (10 years); Florine Harrington (10 years); Linda Hegeman (five years); and Fran Doyle (10 years). Second row: Richard Moore (10 years); David Bethuram, agency director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis; Jim Schutter (five years); and Ed Doyle (10 years). Not pictured is Jane Keller, who was recognized for five years of volunteer service. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Linda Hegeman calls herself the “hello lady,” greeting people coming to the Catholic Charities’ Crisis Office in Indianapolis looking for assistance.

While her cheerful demeanor provides a welcoming atmosphere, she says she enjoys the interaction and “wouldn’t trade that job for anything.”

“Not only do I enjoy the volunteers I work with, I really, really love the clients. They have taught me to be more grateful because they are so grateful,” says Hegeman, who has been a Crisis Office volunteer for five years.

“Their gratitude is so simple, but it’s so sincere,” she continues. “They minister to me. There’s not a day that someone doesn’t come through that I don’t really pray about or pray with for the rest of the week, because in some way they’ve touched me and I have touched them—and sometimes it’s more than one [person]. … What I’ve learned is it’s a very mutual feeling of giving.”

Hegeman, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis, was among the Catholic Charities’ program volunteers honored during a dinner on April 13 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis.

The clients, Hegeman says, truly appreciate the gifts of food, clothing, financial assistance and other resources that Catholic Charities provides them, and she says assisting brothers and sisters in need adds to her life.

“I’m getting pleasure from the experience of actually meeting and helping those I would never meet and help in any other way,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity. If everyone knew what a wonderful opportunity [this is], there’d be lines out the door to volunteer.

“It’s just a wonderful way to spend a day,” she added, “and it gives me a balance to my life that nothing else could.”

Michael Itoka sees his volunteer efforts as a way to assist his brothers and sisters in need as well.

A new RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) volunteer, Itoka says, “I happened to see one young man and his wife being serviced by [the Society of] St. Vincent de Paul,” and that spurred him on to help there.

“I thought I would give back,” says Itoka, who survived a civil war in Liberia and knows the challenges that refugees of conflict face.

“You didn’t know where you were going to eat during the day,” says Itoka of the tumultuous time in the West African country.

“There are so many possibilities for victims of war here,” adds Itoka, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006.

Itoka’s wife, Linda, says her husband, who suffered a stroke in November of 2013, was eager to volunteer at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“He just wanted to give back so much. It’s his way of saying ‘thank you,’ ” she says, “instead of ‘give me something,’ I want to give back.”

Catholic Charities’ program volunteers are a committed group who take the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor to heart, noted David Bethuram, agency director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis during an address to the volunteers.

“We have over 1,000 people every year who volunteer through our programs,” he said. “And they have an impact on what we do.”

According to Bethuram, the agency depends so much on volunteers that there is a monetary value to their efforts.

“In kind, in volunteer services, are close to $100,000 a year for us, so thank you so much for all that you do in line with that,” he noted.

Volunteers’ efforts are much more valuable than money, Bethuram continued.

“You’re valuable because you decide to give of your time and talent to what we do,” he said, “so we’re here to recognize your volunteerism, but also to recognize the spiritual component to what you do.”

Volunteering and serving others is a form of discipleship, Bethuram added, and for many people, it makes them more complete, “by being in relationship with others, to be able to give back, being able to go beyond just being able to say that ‘I’m doing something,’ [but to say] that ‘we’re doing something to help others,’ that I’m a part of something larger than myself.”
 

(To learn more about volunteer efforts with Catholic Charities, please visit its website, www.archindy.org/cc/indianapolis.)

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