Bill and Mary Frances Jaster founded the Colorado Vincentian Volunteer (CVV) program in 1995. Their goal was to create a program where young people learn to live in solidarity with the poor, and obtain spiritual growth while working to alleviate poverty. The program lasts eleven months and takes from eight to 12 volunteers a year. In its sixth year of operation CVV currently has 12 volunteers who live communally and work full time at various community service projects. The Jasters match volunteers with a program in the area of their specific interests while assuring that each volunteer has a separate project. This, coupled with the communal aspect of the program, teaches the volunteers from a wide range of experiences.
The volunteers work in a variety of social service programs. Current volunteers work at hospitals, schools, programs that teach anger and conflict management, battered women shelters, homeless shelters, subsidized housing project, ESL and GED programs, and day shelter for women and children. During its six years of existence, CVV volunteers have worked with more than 30 different organizations in the metro-Denver area, addressing issues of poverty and social need from many different angles.
In addition to providing much needed help to social welfare programs the CVV program also intends to create an awareness in its volunteers of poverty and its effects on individuals and families. Having this awareness is an important step in dealing with these issues. The program creates awareness through weekly reflection and discussion nights (followed by mass), community action days, and five retreats to help the volunteer process and evaluate their work, learn from each other’s experiences, and continue in their spiritual growth.
Community action days fall on the third Friday of every month. During the first half of the program they focus on all of the volunteers convening together at each of their placement sites to either learn about the program or assist with a project or action. After all of the sites have been visited, community action day become a day for the CVV volunteers to help out in the community, through activities such as cleaning up parks and streets, and distributing meals at a food kitchen.
The CVV volunteers have their room and board provided for them and receive a stipend of $75 per month. The CVV program is under the AmeriCorps umbrella, as such volunteers receive the AmeriCorps education award of $4,750 upon the completion of their service.
The Conflict Center (TCC) currently has its fifth CVV volunteer in service. Throughout the years CVV volunteers have been a valuable resource to TCC. They have taught, assisted with program, led and help organize an after-school program, and lent a hand whenever needed.
The Colorado Vincentian Volunteer program addresses issues of education, violence in schools and society in general, homelessness, health care, child abuse, spouse battering, illiteracy, affordable housing and more. This is done through the work of the participants, who learn lessons and values that not only benefit them, but all of humanity as a whole.