Thursday, December 15, 2016

Making a Difference

“Thanks, Walter, you’re the best.”

I have found my volunteer jobs at my home parish richly rewarding. One of them, my work as the “Pathways IT Person” ( as I like to bill it ) makes use of my enjoyment working on a computer.

Pathways provides a meal and a faith-based training event one evening a week; the target guests are people on the fringes. Topics include things such as Spirituality, Healthy Relationships, Health & Wellness, Problem-Solving, Budgeting and Personal Presentation. Each evening requires a minimum of five volunteers and we offer an event on forty-six Thursday evenings every year.

As the IT person, I maintain electronic records of attendance, who pledged to graduate and who actually graduated ( and when for both ), records of who is volunteering for which of the five volunteer positions for each event, and, with the senior leadership of the program, solicit volunteers now and again. I also make the six month schedule template which we use to both solicit volunteers and to document who volunteered.

To experience what they’re like, I attended a couple events. I enjoyed meeting people whose names I had seen on an attendance list and whose attendance I had documented in an Excel spreadsheet. I particularly enjoyed meeting a couple of the people who had long since graduated but who continue to come virtually weekly. Many of the guests who’ve graduated continue to come, clearly having established a community on these Thursday evenings. The average headcount is nineteen or so.

The guests frequently report that their pledge to graduate and then actually doing it is one of the first times they’ve committed to do something and then done it. ( Graduating means they’ve taken each of the ten events. ) Some report that one or another of the interactions that occurred was very meaningful to them. Some guests have gone from being homeless to having permanent shelter.

It is rewarding to know that I contribute to this process that touches many lives, often the lives of people who are on the down side of their luck. Let me be clear: my work touches none of them directly. My work, rather, is an integral part of the infrastructure that makes the program possible.

“Walter, let’s get the first half of 2017 template for Pathways out to the volunteers so people can begin checking their schedules and signing up.”

By the time I get an email like this, I should have the first half of 2017 schedule ready for assigning volunteers … that is, a bare schedule with dates, topics and the three off-evenings documented.

“Walter, I’d like to Host on 12/15, 1/12, 2/23 and 3/2. If these dates are still available, please let me know,” is typical of an email I might get.

I will check the schedule, put these requests on if the dates are open, and respond with a schedule snippet of the dates mentioned to show the request implemented in the schedule. If one or more of the dates is already filled, I will, of course, so say, show that in the schedule snippet, and suggest other open dates the volunteer might consider. And then I get a response, “Thanks, Walter; you’re the best!”

“Walter, Tom Brenson was at Pathways last night and asked how many events he needs to graduate. Oh, and did he pledge? He’s not at all sure he’s actually pledged,” is another less typical but not unheard of email.

The name will probably be familiar to me; I check the Attendance worksheet and determine the answers. I respond, “Tom has not pledged but he has attended all the events. To be eligible to graduate, all he needs do is pledge.”

It is nice to know that my work integrates well with the efforts of the other volunteers to put on a program that helps people who recognize the Basilica community as a caring community … a community clearly attempting to carry God’s love to everyone.

If you would like to comment but don't care to use the comment field, send an email to

No comments:

Post a Comment