The basics: Deanna Driscoll, 69, has volunteered at Catholic Charities in Fresno nearly every Wednesday for the past eight years. She is a part-time dance instructor and previous owner of The Dancing School of Selma. Driscoll started the school in 1971 and passed it on to her daughter Beth Zobian, who now owns it.
Driscoll is married and has two grown daughters; her other daughter lives in Anchorage with Driscoll’s two grandsons. She also is a marriage coordinator at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fresno.
What she does: As a volunteer for Catholic Charities, Driscoll takes on receptionist duties every Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m., answering phones, directing calls and “anything else they might need help with.”
She also is a member of the Ministers of Presence Guild, which organizes Catholic Charity’s largest fundraiser, The Harvest of Hope. She has been the chair for the live auction in recent years, but relinquished the duty this past September. “It’s quite an undertaking,” she says of the fundraiser, which includes wine auctions and a dinner.
Why she does it: “It’s so fulfilling,” Driscoll says. “I get more out of it, I think, than Catholic Charities does.” She says it’s amazing how many people are touched by the organization. “I don’t think I would have any idea of the scope and importance of what happens at Catholic Charities if I hadn’t actually been there to see it with my own eyes.”
She is grateful that she gets to play a small part in something much greater than her. “It’s not a huge chunk of time,” she says of her volunteer work, “but it is a way that I can help.”
The turning point: Driscoll began her work with Catholic Charities as a charter member of the Minsters of Presence Guild. The guild was started within the Diocese of Fresno to promote the work of Catholic Charities. As soon as she got involved, she knew she wanted to do more. “I want to help Catholic Charities,” she remembers thinking, “so I better do something about it.”
Details, details: When Driscoll answers the phone, it’s usually clients calling to find out what kind of services they can get. Depending upon their needs, Driscoll directs their call.
Although providing food is a big part of what Catholic Charities does, Driscoll is excited about a job skills class that now is being offered. Clients get the support and encouragement needed to finish the classes and learn how to use computers, build resumes and other skills.
As for her family life, it’s not just dancing that runs in the family. While one of Driscoll’s daughters has taken over her dancing school, the other one volunteers with Catholic Charities in Alaska. Driscoll says she is proud, and visits Anchorage as often as she can.
She has gotten to know both the employees and many clients of Catholic Charities over the years. “I have met so many wonderful people who work there and that’s another reason why I love being there,” she says. “They really care about what they’re doing.”
What others say: “She’s a dream,” says Catholic Charities Executive Director Kelly Lillies. When Driscoll began volunteering in 2008, Lillies said Driscoll realized the organization needed help answering phones, and quickly filled the need.
Along with being “kind, gracious, dependable and loyal,” Lillies says Driscoll also makes monetary donations to Catholic Charities. “She’s a dear friend to our agency,” Lillies says.
How you can help: Driscoll says the organization is always in need of food and clothing donations for people who come in with an immediate need. Catholic Charities also runs a thrift store and accepts household items, furnishings and toys to be sold. Donations can be dropped off at 149 Fulton St., where Driscoll says donors can also take a look at what goes on at the organization.
There are also volunteer opportunities available, which can be made by calling 559-237-0851. Driscoll herself may be the one answering if it happens to be a Wednesday between 1 and 4 p.m. “If (you) want to come and volunteer, I’ll take the call,” she says.