by Jill Ragar Esfeld
LEAVENWORTH — If you ask Katie Frandsen why she volunteers for Sister Vickie Perkins at Welcome Central here, she’ll tell you her motivation is selfish.
“Because it makes me happy,” she says. “When I go home on Tuesday, I feel like it’s been a good day.
“I’ve helped some people and, in some way, they’ve helped me, too.”
Frandsen, a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales, Lansing, is also part of the Friendly Visitors program with Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
She was familiar with Welcome Central through Catholic Charities and felt a calling to volunteer there when she saw an ad in her church bulletin.
“Sometimes, if you’re a believer, it’s not a coincidence,” she said about the ad. “I think it’s easy to think, ‘That’s interesting, I’ll call and see about that,’ without realizing that’s really God speaking to you.”
A psychiatric nurse who retired in 2011, Frandsen felt her background suited her to work at the center where clients often deal with mental illness.
“I called and it was arranged that I could volunteer on Tuesdays,” she said. “Working with Sister [Vickie] is a piece of amazement in itself.”
Sister Vickie is coordinator of Welcome Central, an outreach ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in collaboration with area churches.
Opened in downtown Leavenworth two years ago, the ministry is staffed by volunteers who help the poor connect with social services, fill out forms needed for those services and secure transportation.
“It’s basically a day center,” explained Frandsen. “People come for support and fellowship.
“When they come in, we do an intake form and they may need help with housing, rent or landlords. They may be having trouble finding food or getting enough food.
“It may be they need a birth certificate or they need to file for disability.”
The primary task of the volunteers at Welcome Central is to help those in need find the right resources.
They also provide transportation so those resources can be accessed.
“There are people who drive; there are people who do the dispatching,” said Frandsen, who is a favored dispatcher among the drivers.
“People call in and we’ll kind of book a ride,” she said. “We’ll get their name and where they’re going and a telephone number.
“Our drivers — a lot of them are retired Sisters — get them where they’re going. Then they’ll call and say they’re ready to go home, and we arrange that.
“It’s kind of a science and an art to get that done.”
As a dispatcher, Frandsen also schedules showers for people at a nearby community center and hands out laundry assistance bags put together by her parish youth group.
Each bag contains a laundry pod, a dryer sheet and enough quarters for a wash and dry.
“That’s very practical,” she said. “And I’m so proud of our youth group every time I give that stuff out.”
In essence, Frandsen does a little bit of everything at Welcome Central, but the most satisfying aspect of her volunteer work is simply being present for those in need.
“I feel like if I can talk to somebody and make their day better because I’ve been pleasant, or I remembered their name, or I’ve had a cup of coffee with them,” she said, “that can ease a burden.
“That human touch of giving someone your full attention for a few minutes — that may be all you can do, but it’s something.
“If you’re able to understand that and be present, that’s a merciful thing.”
And that act of mercy is what brings happiness to Frandsen at Welcome Central.
“It’s really an amazing place,” she said. “People are helped there every Tuesday that I’m there.
“It’s really nice to be just a small part of that.”