Jaime Centenaro

1/30/2014

These past two years have transformed my life immensely through the volunteer service I’ve been doing. I am part of a non-profit organization called Saint Vincent de Paul which is involved in aiding those in need in whatever way possible. I first found out about this group through my parents; they were previously involved and encouraged me to join as well. They wanted me to see how much these people were in desperate need of help, so I got involved into the organization. One of the main obstacles I faced upon starting this volunteering service was my shyness. I tend to be a quite and a timid person when meeting new people, but when I became involved with these new people, I started to feel more comfortable and energized as time passed by. The people I was involved with were great; they were kind people filled with generous hearts and tended to be very funny at times. The leader of our group is Joanne See which the President of Saint Vincent de Paul at our Catholic Church, Saint Louise de Marillac. Every Catholic Church has their own group that is involved within this organization.
The group and I were involved in several different services that vary depending on the date. On the first Friday of every month, we head out to the First United Methodist Church located on Ontario and start out there by feeding the needy. The needy were composed of individuals in the lower class and even people who were homeless. Here, we help set up the tables in the church’s hall with utensils and napkins. We then head on back to the kitchen and divide the group into two; one group helps serve the food and the other group helps distribute the plates of food to those in need. What shocked me the first time I started volunteering, was the huge amount of people that came all being expected to be fed. The ages varied on these people ranging from old people to even small children. I was also taken by surprise when I saw some people who were around my age, maybe a little older, who arrived with hunger. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I can make a difference in the world by being part of this generous organization. After the people in need were fed with dinner and dessert, each person was handed a gift basket to take home which was filled with food. Sometimes there was even clothing for them to take home.
Another church the group and I went to was called the First Lutheran Church also located on Ontario. The process here is similar except this time out group is distributes the food the whole time rather than serve it. I remember that I helped serve the drinks and people would come up to me asking me for tea or orange juice. The faces of these people varied in many ways. You could tell some people really needed help and this made me realize how strong poverty was in America.
A different service the group and I were involved in was distributing bags of lunch which contained a sandwich, a bag of cookies, an orange, and a water bottle. We meet up on the second Saturday of every month in Saint Madeleine Catholic Church and prepare the lunches at the church’s hall. Once the group finishes the preparation, we go in different cars and go through the streets of Pomona and distribute the lunch bags to several homeless people. The main destinations we visit are the parks and the public library which close to the Pomona City Hall. There are a tremendous amount of homeless people around these parts in the morning. We sometimes find them sleeping on their blankets or on the benches; in this case we leave a lunch bag next to them and don’t disturb them. These homeless people are usually nice and always thank us with kind hearts, but sometimes there are grouchy ones who coldly deny the lunch bag and walk away. Despite this, it feels good inside when you see the happy faces of the homeless people once they accept our gift. The group and I also do this same service in Saint Louise de Marillac on the third Saturday of every month. We prepare the lunches there early in the morning and go out and distribute them to the day laborers which are usually found around Home Depot. There, the day laborers are waiting all morning hoping for someone to offer them a job and sometimes they don’t get one. We usually go to Covina and other cities that are close by such as Baldwin Park and El Monte. I enjoy doing this service the most because I get to explore the streets and see what truly lies behind them.
Saint Vincent de Paul also offers a special service to the homeless on the second Sunday of February in Saint Martha Catholic Church and the day before Christmas in Saint Dorothy Catholic Church. This event is very special because there are flyers that are passed out to the homeless prior to this event. Once the day arrives, special buses arrive to a destination and bring many homeless people to the church where they are offered food, a place to shower, and clothing to keep warm for the night. This event is usually longer since there are a lot more people to serve dinner to and everyone must have a turn to shower.
Overall, my experiences with the Saint Vincent de Paul organization have been extraordinary. It made feel like I can make a difference in the world just by helping out those in need. There are some people out there who are complaining about their cellphones breaking while there are people out there who are suffering from hunger. By doing little actions like this, one can make accomplish a lot for the world.

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