SCL ‘Pioneer’ volunteers serve in the heartland

by | Feb 20, 2013 | Sisters of Charity, Vincentian Family

‘Pioneer’ volunteers serve in the heartland

SC-leavenworthMuch like the first Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCLs) responded to the call to “Come north,” the first Heartland Charity Volunteers accepted the invitation to come to the Midwest for a year of service. However, unlike the pioneer SCLs, the five young women arrived in Kansas last August by automobiles and with iPads and laptops; they came from four different states and different life experiences; and they didn’t know each other until they arrived.

Over halfway through their year of service, the Heartland Charity Volunteers are immersed in their ministries, learning that “being community” can be more challenging than they thought, and enjoying life in the Kansas City metro area where they live and serve. The first group of volunteers includes Miranda Caulkins, Peoria, Ill.; Matea daRosa, Boise, Idaho; Mandy Ebert, Wamego, Kan.; Mary Gillette, Miles City, Mont.; and Shala Steffes, Billings, Mont.

Varied volunteer ministries

As Heartland Charity Volunteers, each of the young women has been assigned to a ministry associated with the SCLs or connected to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul (to whom the SCLs trace their roots). The volunteers agree to serve for a year for which they receive room and board and a small stipend.
The first group of Heartland Charity Volunteers, left to right, Mary Gillette, Shala Steffes, Miranda Caulkins, Mandy Ebert and Matea daRosa.

SCL volunteers

  • Matea teaches fourth-grade at Our Lady of Angels School, Kansas City, Mo., where 84 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and 74 percent are Latino. “It’s exactly the volunteer assignment I wanted,” Matea says. “It’s been a blessing where I’m able to combine my passion with gifts that God’s given me and weave them together in a holistic fashion in my classroom.”
  • Mandy splits her time between the Mother House, Leavenworth, Kan., and Seton Center, Kansas City, Mo. A massage therapist by training, she offers this service to Sisters from the Mother House and Ross Hall two days a week. The other days,  andy works in the food pantry at Seton Center. From rural, northeast Kansas, Mandy says of her food pantry experience, “I didn’t grow up around this kind of poverty. I’ve come to realize that people often need help not due to anything that’s their own fault. It’s not for me to judge who needs assistance.”
  • Developing relationships with students is what Shala enjoys most about her volunteer service at University of Saint Mary (USM), Leavenworth. Shala works between campus ministry and the Student Success program. In campus ministry, she interacts with students through service projects and trips, weekly Masses and Bible studies. She’s available in the lounge where students hang out, have coffee and snacks, visit and mingle. Through Student Success, she tutors and mentors college youth to help them be successful.
  • Relating with persons in need by taking them to doctors’ appointments or to complete applications for disability income is Mary’s Heartland Charity Volunteer role. She works with Companion Ministries in Kansas City, Kan., and offices in Church of the Brethren. Many of the persons she serves live with their families or in public housing. They need support navigating systems and connecting with resources. Mary likes working closely with and getting to know her clients as individuals. She also tutors at Cristo Rey High School, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Assigned full-time to Cristo Rey, Miranda is putting her talents to work in the advancement/development office where she does graphic design and video projects. She also helps students with “credit recovery” – ensuring that the high-schoolers are on task if they need to make up courses. What appeals to her is being able to work with teams of people to get tasks accomplished – like redesigning the website or assisting students.

Reactions to the program

As the first participants in Heartland Charity Volunteers, the five young women came with different expectations. They thought they might experience more frugal lifestyles or be discouraged from exploring the city. Neither has been the case.

Matea admits that forming community was harder for her than she expected. “I’m more independent than I thought,” she says.

The group eats four meals and prays four times a week as community in the house they share in eastern Wyandotte County but the volunteers are together more often throughout the week. They have been invited to participate in activities, events and celebrations hosted by the Sisters and Associates (lay persons affiliated with the religious community).

Every week, the volunteers meet with the program’s coordinators – Sisters Vickie Perkins, Irene Skeehan and Therese Steiner – for a meal, prayer and discussion. To a person, the volunteers appreciate the support and assistance they’ve received from these SCLs and from other Sisters and Associates for work done to prepare the house for their arrival and for prayers.

“Sisters Vickie, Irene and Therese have given us guidelines and helped us form community,” Shala says, “but then they’ve left it to us.”

“We laugh a lot,” Shala says. And adds, “It’s just amazing to me that people we’ve never met before have taken such an interest in our lives.”The SCLs have also come through in a clutch. Like the time the volunteers’ vehicles were all on the blink, and Sister Irene arrived in her pajamas to take them to work!

Applications now being accepted for Heartland Charity Volunteers

The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth are now accepting applications for Heartland Charity Volunteer placements for August 2013. Volunteers will serve from August through June. Participants will have the opportunity to practice values of community, simplicity, prayer and ministry among and with people who are poor. Deadline for applications is June 1. For more information, email

Hertland Charity Volunteers













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