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Catholic Charities Connect Highlights Vanessa Dunlap

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Catholic Charities Connect Highlights Vanessa Dunlap

Catholic Charities Connect Highlights Vanessa Dunlap

Vanessa Dunlap

Director of Community and Financial Services recognized by Catholic Charities across the nation

Around the Network: Meet Vanessa Dunlap

Published on June 4, 2024 by CCConnect

Director of Community and Financial Services
Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia 

What first brought you to Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia? What keeps you there?

Eighteen years ago, I happened to meet the Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia (CCEVA) executive director at a Christmas party. She asked if I knew anyone who needed a job helping uninsured or underinsured people apply for free medication. Without missing a beat, I said yes, me! Please know that before this conversation, I had no idea what Catholic Charities was or what they did. I just knew this was where I needed to be. I started a week later. I stay because we do good work here and I have the privilege to serve people with people I look up to and who push me to grow. 

What do you do day-to-day at Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia?

I am the director of community and financial services. I support our companion care and in-home respite care coordinator and our life coach at Chesapeake Regional Hospital, and I oversee our financial and housing counseling program. I spend a great deal of time signing vouchers, doing grant reporting and attending meetings. That is my official job; however, you will often find me running around town, paying for people’s medication, taking someone to a medical procedure when they don’t have anyone else who can do it or delivering groceries to a home-bound client. My days are full of surprises, which keeps me from being bored. 

Why is it important to serve your community and neighbors in need?

People are struggling, and everything can seem insurmountable when you feel alone. As my team and I serve our community, we help people to feel less alone and to feel that they have someone in their corner rooting for them and cheering them on. As an agency, we inspire hope, and when a person or community has hope, lives change for the better.

Tell us the story of a client in whom you saw the face of Christ recently and why.

The other day, I was at my worst. I had just dropped my car off at the shop for a check engine light. My admin was out for the day, and I was answering the door, handing out diapers and trying to get grant reports completed. I was on the verge of being overwhelmed when a woman came in and asked if Vanessa Dunlap was available. I was tempted to say no, because I had a lot to do; but when I stopped and looked at her, I heard a voice say, “Will you make time for me?” Instead of no, I said, “Hi, I’m Vanessa. What can I help you with?” It took two hours, multiple phone calls, calling in a favor with another agency and a car ride to pay a hotel bill. But, as she was leaving, she admitted that this was the last stop she was going to make before she gave up. Then she thanked me for taking the time to help in her darkest hour.  

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your time at Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia?

Driving the beer cart at the annual golf tournament is the best gig around!

What’s your biggest goal these days?

To be present and supportive to those around me, and to celebrate the everyday miracles.

What’s a personal mantra or philosophy you try to live by?

Be the light in someone else’s darkness.

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