Am I using my gifts to the benefit of God’s call in my life?
This question and several others are asked of new members who join Catholic Volunteers in Florida (CVIF). The program involves a year of service where individuals are encouraged and challenged to “Become Who You Are.”
“What does it really mean for us to follow God’s call?” asks Elizabeth Buckley, Executive Director of CVIF. “We are always on a journey to discover God’s purpose for our lives and serving others through CVIF is a wonderful way to grow spiritually.”
Across the state of Florida, CVIF serves 8,500 people who are considered marginalized for a variety of reasons. Some of the locations where volunteers are assigned include: Bishop Grady Villas in St. Cloud supporting people with disabilities, Catholic Charities in Orlando assisting low income families, New Hope for Kids serving grieving children, and in parishes serving as needed.
The new year of service began with 14 participants on August 3. Newcomer Eddie Allen of Good Shepherd Parish, Orlando, heard of CVIF through his mother Elsie Allen. She attended a presentation at St. Augustine Parish in Casselberry and mentioned the program to Allen knowing his interest in volunteering. Allen quickly took his mother’s recommendation to be part of a group who serves the Lord.
“My mom got excited since this is exactly the type of group I wanted to be part of,” said Allen, who is 29. “I know it’s my passion to somehow serve God. I think volunteering will put me on a good path to see how I can be of service to my community.”
Allen is assigned to serve at Holy Family Parish in Orlando and Catholic Campus Ministry at University of Central Florida in Orlando. He also plans on using his talents in an artistic and fascinating way.
“I am trying to make a documentary of my experience for Catholic Volunteers in Florida,” said Allen. “I’ll be documenting different service sites, speaking to the faculty, some of the residents we serve and if possible our volunteer alumni.”
There are plenty of passionate CVIF alumni throughout its history. In 2010, a 21-year-old Kieran Bulger from New York made the decision to relocate after graduating from the University of Notre Dame. He put aside the chance to venture into the business world immediately after college, to assist families whose financial struggles had reached a crisis.
“With Catholic Charities, I was a financial assistance caseworker,” said Bulger, who has a minor in poverty studies. “When Catholic Charities funds are available or through annual collections, we help families with eviction notices remain in their homes. We want to be a resource for them so they won’t fall into a deeper cycle of poverty.”
Bulger says his education prepared him to take on this role, although he accredits his decision to joining CVIF to Valarie Amica, Director of Programs & Service Sites.
“I am confident in saying I decided to do my volunteer year because of Valarie,” said Bulger. “I have respect for people who take on job positions of service. If you have the passion for serving others, we need more of you.”
With 5 years of assisting the marginalized, Valarie Amica knows people join CVIF to use their education as helpful tools in service of others.
“We mesh the background of what our volunteers pursued in school with their faith,” said Amica. “Those characteristics are the center of who they are and we try to help mentor them along the way, so they are on their path to reaching their full potential through service and faith.”
Regardless of a person’s background in education, faith or age, CVIF continues to positively influence the Diocese of Orlando. Through all the services provided, CVIF’s mission is to further illustrate the beauty of service one person at a time. Bulger is one of those individuals who will soon take his experiences from assisting low income families to his new role with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, Louisiana.