Celebrating National Volunteer Month at Iona

April 5, 2022

Iona has hundreds of dedicated and caring volunteers who are critical to helping our organization execute its mission. In celebration of National Volunteer Month, we’re recognizing a few of them!

When Lisa DeBow was looking for a service project to do with her young children, she never expected to find something that would keep them all engaged for years to come. Today, Lisa and her two children, Jack and CC, have volunteered with Iona’s SHARE program for nearly four years!

Mary Frances McGuiness, Carney, and Lisa DeBow’s family

Once a month on Friday afternoons, Lisa gathers her children from school and makes her way to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Chevy Chase, DC, where Catholic Charities’ national SHARE Food Network operates locally. SHARE offers healthy, nutritious groceries at a significant discount. Iona is able to offer the SHARE program to its clients for free, thanks to generous funding from Blessed Sacrament and DC’s Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL). Iona relies on the commitment of a special group of volunteers, including Lisa and her children, to make SHARE deliveries to older adults’ homes each month.

Iona’s clients have only the kindest words to describe Lisa and her family. “I have the deepest respect for them. They lift up my spirits every time they come. It is very helpful for a senior who cannot really get out much to have that contact with a beautiful family like Lisa’s,” said one client recently. “She is reliable, caring, and an extraordinary volunteer.”

Andrew Wilkins

Another Iona volunteer, Andrew Wilkins, started delivering SHARE groceries when the pandemic began. “Tania Sechriest, Iona’s Volunteer Program Manager, asked me to consider a new volunteer role when Covid hit, and I said ‘yes’ right away,” Andrew says. Although he lives across town on Capitol Hill, he rarely misses a month. Recently, he even sent the following message to Megan Lynott, Iona’s SHARE Coordinator: “If you all are unable to find someone to deliver instead of me, please let me know and I’ll try to change my travel schedule to make sure the food gets there.” What amazing commitment!

Another perk of volunteering with Iona is that sometimes the gig is pet-friendly. For Mary Frances McGuiness, who has held numerous volunteer positions at Iona from board member to volunteer grocery shopper, her favorite activities are those in which her dog, Carney, can participate. He is beloved by all who get a chance to interact with him. She started delivering food with Carney during the pandemic so that she could help during a critical time when most volunteer opportunities had temporarily stopped. “Seeing the same clients each month has engendered camaraderie and friendship with each of the recipients. I look forward to seeing them each month…providing them with their healthy food,” she says.

One Iona client sums up the SHARE program neatly: “During this difficult Covid pandemic, the whole team at Iona has been superb; the volunteers continuously offer experienced and reliable support. They have a deep concern and love for their clients, with their visits resulting in positive experiences and improved quality of life for many people.” We couldn’t agree more!

To learn more the SHARE program and deliver groceries one Friday afternoon per month, please reach out to Tania Sechriest at volunteer@iona.org. (Please note that volunteers must have their own vehicles, be able to lift 20+ lbs., be over 21, be in good health, and be fully-vaccinated against Covid-19.)