While coping with the loss of his mother in 2014, Jim Jeppi sought to fill, in part, the void he felt by looking for ways to continue helping older adults. For many years, Jim had been the primary caregiver for his mother, Jennie, who suffered with dementia and other ailments.
“When she passed away, I had this abundance of time and I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he said. “So I went online and found the Catholic Charities website.”
“I wasn’t aware of how many programs Catholic Charities had, of how much they do,” he added.
As Jim scrolled through the volunteer opportunities listed on the website, he came across Caritas House Assisted Living and decided to respond. These days, Jim volunteers there every Sunday morning escorting the elders to the adjacent St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center for Mass in the chapel and then later helping them back home.
“I took my mother to Mass every week so I was used to helping people in wheelchairs and with walkers,” he said.
“Jim has dedicated his Sunday mornings to the elders here at Caritas,” said Tazaa Sweeney, household coordinator at Caritas House. “It’s heartwarming to have someone give so unselfishly. Jim is our Sunday morning angel at Caritas, and the elders always look forward to seeing him.”
A native of Catonsville, Jim now lives in Clarksville and has been a realtor in Howard County for 30 years. While still a member of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fulton, the chapel at St. Elizabeth has become his de facto parish. “It’s a good thing St. Francis has electronic giving so I can still send my weekly donation,” he quipped.
When he’s not at Caritas, Jim keeps busy as a volunteer at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, helping out whenever they have the need for an extra pair of hands.
For much of the past year, he has also been serving lunch every week at Our Daily Bread Employment Center. His brother-in-law Dominic has served lunch at ODBEC for the past 15 years but was unable to continue after a lymphoma diagnosis. Seeing the need to step in, Jim decided to take Dominic’s place until he’s healthy enough to return.
While he enjoys his other volunteer work, Jim’s heart is clearly with the people living at Caritas. “At Our Daily Bread, I don’t have as much time to get to know the clients,” he said. “At Caritas, however, I get to know a little bit more about each person.”
“I see myself in the people who live here,” he added.
His familiarity with the elders is evident. He talks about Bern, who is about to celebrate her 95th birthday, and Joanne and Jim who still attend Mass together, although he moved into Caritas while his wife still lives independently, and Rose, who is recovering from a stroke. While walking through Caritas, Jim stops to chat with Sharon about the collage she’s creating using the magazines he brought in for her.
“I’ve also met a couple of people here who I knew when I was growing up,” he said. “There’s a woman in St. Elizabeth who used to be my neighbor.”
Jim feels that he benefits from his volunteer experience as much as the elders he helps. Speaking again about his mother, he recounted that “it was difficult not having someone next to me to take care of during Mass. At Caritas, I am able to not be alone at Mass and visit with the people here.”
“There’s no reason why everybody isn’t here doing this,” he said.