In honor of National AmeriCorps week, we are recognizing the three members in our 11-month long service program, the Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati (VVC). The three current VVCs are Samuel Newton (right), Phoung Thanh Phan (center), and Madi Eftink (left). They have been a part of our team since August 2022 and continue to grow in spirit, virtue, faith and friendship in our community. With only three months left, our VVCs reflect on the program:
Samuel Newton: “I recently graduated from the University of Michigan and worked as a pharmacy technician last summer. The COVID response was really important to me, and in the state of Michigan pharmacy technicians can be immunizers, so I was able to help patients with immunization to the virus. Through this process, I learned that I enjoyed the one-on-one aspect with patients. Now, at Saint Vincent de Paul I love meeting with neighbors individually in the welcome rooms and providing them with some emotional relief in a time of stress.”
“When people are coming to pharmacy, they are typically experiencing a health crisis and a financial crisis at the same time. It is really difficult to navigate that. It is really nice to just take a moment to step back from the person’s problems, really treat them with humanity, and offer them a moment of peace. That is what I love about Saint Vincent de Paul, we are providing them with a direct need, but we are also providing direct need to the individual’s humanity.”
Madi Eftink: “I was working towards my undergraduate degree was in psychology at Ohio University in Athens. Through several years of discernment, I decided that God was calling me to a different path than sticking to the 4-year path of getting a degree and doing what I initially thought was the perfect plan. My junior year I started discerning missionary work to see what that would look like in my life. During that process I applied to Saint Vincent de Paul, and they graciously accepted me.”
“I chose Saint Vincent de Paul over another group that had accepted me just through hearing how much the organization effects people, not just people who come in for services, but also people who come in for retreats.”
Phuong Thanh Phan: “I recently graduated from Mount Saint Joseph University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in December 2021. Following graduation, I worked at Cincinnati Sports Club for a few months while figuring out my next steps. During this time is when I applied to the VVC position at Saint Vincent de Paul. I had volunteered many times at Saint Vincent de Paul already before applying, which helped with my decision. I volunteered at the pantry in the past and that was a wonderful experience for me.”
Samuel Newton: “I am a pharmacy patient advocate and work a lot with the phones in the pharmacy. I am usually the first person that people talk to when they are reaching out to the pharmacy. There is a lot of responsibility there- our Charitable Pharmacy has a higher income threshold compared to other services in the area. There has been a lot of situations when someone has already reached out to 15 different agencies in one day before they call, and I am the first person to tell them that we can help them.
“Another part of my role is meeting with neighbors for their first appointment, looking at their social determinants of health and determining if they need any other assistance and qualify for any financial aid.”
Madi Eftink: “I am a Social Services Advocate and I do many things in my position: I greet neighbors in the welcome rooms needing pantry assistance, rent and utility applications, birth certificates, vouchers, finding external resources, you name it. I also work with rent and utility cases with individuals who have applied. Currently we have a lot of utility needs due to the cold weather, and in my role, I try to help them pay for it. Sometimes neighbors express needs for other things like clothing which I will provide a voucher for. I will also set up home visits for furniture needs.”
Phuong Thanh Phan: I am The Neyer Outreach Center Programs VVC I lead the seasonal programs like Christmas Together and the Fan and AC Drive. I also lead the Bob and Sylvia Rahe Mattress Fund Program where I work with Conferences and Outreach Services to collect bed requests and help select which applications we can fulfill for the month. Then I process the request and extend vouchers out to neighbors.”
Samuel Newton: “I love praying with patients- I like to ask patients if they want to pray with me at the end of visits (in the welcome room) and I pray the Our Father. It changes the entire tone of the appointment. We are in such a secular world that inviting God into the conversation helps build trust between us and the patient. This trust is really important for the medical aspect as well because neighbors tend to share more about how their health journey is actually going, which helps us effectively treat them.”
Phuong Thanh Phan: “Leading the Christmas Together Program. During this seasonal program I was able to see just how many people were willing to offer a helping hand to our neighbors and provide them with a beautiful Christmas. An image that really stuck during the planning was seeing just how much was donated when all the presents were in the store house the morning of pickups.”
Madi Eftink: “It is hard to pinpoint only one thing, there are so many parts of this experience that I truly love. I love my coworkers, they are great. After a welcome room visitation, a lot of emotion is placed onto you, it is good to have a space where we can step away from that.
I also love telling neighbors that we can finally provide them with assistance, like furniture for a house they finally were able to move into. I called several neighbors last week to schedule them home visitations for furniture vouchers and some of them they started crying with relief.”
Samuel Newton: “Be patient with yourself, your coworkers, and especially with the neighbors.”
Madi Eftink: “Don’t take things to heart, especially in that first month you will and you have to learn how to let it go. If the neighbor is getting upset…it is usually not because of you, it is about what is going on in their own life, their circumstance of poverty, or their mental health. Whenever you cannot provide them with something you feel absolutely terrible because these people need this, they could be evicted, or homeless. However, you cannot take that to heart because it is the unfortunate outcome of a lot of things, not just you.
Phuong Thanh Phan: “Look at the neighbors as your own brothers and sisters. That is a bit cliché to say but I believe it is a very important aspect of what we do here.”
Could you, or a young person in your life, be a good fit for our Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati program? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more. Applications are currently available online here. Questions? You can contact our Service Learning team by email at VVC@SVDPcincinnati.org.