Dedicated Volunteer

Working with the emergency services team at the Franciscan Center in West Baltimore, Mark Wong ’67 helps to address a myriad of social services needs and issues in the community.

At the center, Wong has provided assistance to homeless individuals by finding housing and targeting employment, those on low fixed incomes who are forced to choose between buying food or a prescription and newly released ex-inmates with nowhere to go. “While the center is stretched for resources,” observes Wong, “the demand for services continues to grow, and I hope and believe that we are seen as a beacon of light in Baltimore.”

As an Ignatian Volunteer, Wong commits over 500 hours of service a year to the center and also assists those who need funds to help pay gas and electric bills, secure state identification cards or birth certificates and those facing eviction. The Ignatian Volunteer Corp, a Jesuit-sponsored program founded in 1995, is a national service organization that places “men and women, aged 50 or better” with community groups that serve the poor, while gaining spiritual growth through service.

“My seeds of faith and service were sown at Stonehill,” explains Wong. “Stonehill in many ways taught me rich lessons which led me to directly serve others in my retirement,” says Wong. Describing why he chose to become an Ignatian Volunteer, Wong says, “You can volunteer anywhere but don’t necessarily have the opportunity for spiritual growth in and with community. My spiritualityhas been enriched beyond description by volunteering in Baltimore.”

Humanizing the Badge

It’s not every day that you see a police officer eating lunch with middle school students, but if you visit King Philip Middle School in Norfolk, Mass., you’ll see School Resource Officer and Detective Michelle Palladini ’04 sharing a meal with students a few times a month. Having recently won the 2016 Award for Mentoring by the Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement, Palladini says, “The lunchtime conversation varies from relationships to problems they’re having in school or at home.”

According to Palladini, middle school students are at an age where intervention and education can lead to future crime prevention. That’s why Palladini, formerly of the Stonehill College Police Department, created the Leader Empowerment Awareness Protection (L.E.A.P) program, which combines social and emotional learning models and covers various topics to help students learn what it means to be a positive member of society.

Taught in health classes, L.E.A.P. has become so successful that it’s been implemented in other communities, and Palladini has been providing training for other officers. She also hosts coffee chats with parents and self-defense training.

“I believe in community-based, proactive policing. Our role as officers is largely reactive, responding to calls for service or a crime that has been committed,” Palladini notes. “When we engage all members of our community in positive ways, we develop a level of trust that wasn’t there before. This is ‘protect and serve’ at it’s best.”

A Diverse Job

Halfway through a 12-month tour in Afghanistan, Rick Benoit ’82 is dreaming of fried clams. “It’s windy, hazy and dusty here. Definitely not the Cape,” observes Benoit, who is an operations chief and program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

An active-duty civilian, Benoit is supporting U.S. collaboration with NATO’s Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at Bagram Airfield, about 15 miles south of Kabul.

“It’s sort of like being mayor,” he explains. “I’m responsible for the movement of everything—personnel, vehicles, supplies—onto and off of the base. That can be more challenging than you think.”

And that’s only half of Benoit’s job. When he is stateside, he also is a supervisor and diver for the USACE Forward Response Dive Team, based in Portland, Oregon. “We inspect waterfront structures worldwide,” he says. “I’ve been all over the country, plus Japan, Korea and Italy, doing structural assessments on things like seawalls, piers and pilings.” He’s also been deployed to areas such as Haiti and Bangladesh to do earthquake response and recovery.

Benoit has spent more than a decade with USACE, a command comprised of 20 percent active-duty military and 80 percent civilian personnel within the Department of the Army and Department of  Defense. “It’s a really diverse job. You have to be extremely adaptable.” Here, Benoit gives Stonehill credit: “My liberal arts education prepared me to do anything.”

The Veterinarian Path

From the time she was young, Susan Tinkham ’09 wanted to be a veterinarian. Growing up in Halifax, she lived down the street from a vet and would always accompany her mother or father on visits with one of their cats.

“I felt like our vet always knew what to do in an emergency, and he was always so calm,” she remembers. “I wanted to be that confident as well.”

Tinkham came to Stonehill determined, talking to her advisor in September of her first year year about the best possible path to veterinary school. For Tinkham, that included majoring in biology and interning at a veterinary practice.

She graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts in 2013, which included a clinical year at Purdue University in Indiana. Along the way, Tinkham assembled a small menagerie: “Island kitties” Lizzie and Ruby, and a Dutch rabbit named Jeremy.

Tinkham is now in general practice at Norton Animal Hospital in Norton, where she’s developed an affinity for “the small, cute and fuzzy”—hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, etc. “But I see a lot of dogs and cats, too,” she notes.

Years later, Tinkham is still happy with her childhood career choice. “I love meeting new people and building relationships so that they trust me to give the best care to their pets.”