A stewardship of time and love
Volunteers develop community while working at Chancery
Myra Jacobs’ volunteers are familiar around the Chancery in Wichita.
The director of the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities said her volunteers not only take care of many projects she would otherwise not be able to undertake, but they also give testimony of what persons with disabilities can do – in addition to the social benefits of being among those who work in diocese’s main office building.
“It’s about relationships. We all get to know each other,” she said.
“There are folks who come in with autism, with mobility difficulties, with Down Syndrome, and with processing disorders. It’s good they get to know us and we get to know them and build relationships. That’s what we’re made for, to reflect the relationship of the Trinity.”
Chancery employees know a volunteer is in the house when the sound of the shredder’s cutting wheels makes its way down the halls. “The other offices have caught on and bring their shredding down when a volunteer is working,” Jacobs said.
Another advantage to the shredding is the machine’s location. It is next to the building’s back door and on a stairway landing which allows for frequent interaction with passers-by, she said. “People come in and out and say hello. That has just turned out to be a really good way for everybody to get to know each other.”
Care Envelopes reach out
Jacobs said one important communication technique the office uses is Care Envelopes, developed for those who aren’t computer literate or are handicapped in other ways.
“One hundred eighty of those envelopes go out about every eight weeks,” she said. “The envelopes have a holy card, a little scavenger hunt, a little craft or something. I wouldn’t be able to send those out without the volunteers.”
Not only do her helpers place stamps on the envelopes, but they also stuff them with the items for that mailing, and they put decorative stickers on them. “They make it really fun for the recipients.”
The response is always positive, Jacobs said. “They let me know they got their envelope. They think it’s so cool to get something in the mail with their name on it.”
Volunteers have also been preparing project kits to be used during this summer’s Holy Family Camp.
One of the volunteers is an artist, she said, another is bilingual, she said. “They come in with those gifts and those abilities that are incredibly helpful to the ministry.”
Preparation for employment
A few of the volunteers participate because it’s part of their school curriculum while others are with Project Search, which prepares young people with significant disabilities for employment. Some volunteers participate through Community Based Instruction which helps participants learn job-related skills.
Jacobs said she has noticed that several volunteers have begun wearing the same thing while working such as an Irish cap, a KU mask, or a Wichita Saints or Special Olympics T-shirt.
“It’s like a uniform,” she said. “It’s been fun, too, for us to see their personalities and what they like.”
Jacobs added that several of the volunteers recently reminded Chancery employees that spring break is coming up. “We’ll have to say, we don’t go to spring break. Thanks for rubbing it in!”