JV alumni often choose to stay in Juneau

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2001

When Patrick Minick was finishing up college as a history major in Fort Wayne, Ind., he wanted to spend a year as a Jesuit volunteer - but not on the Last Frontier.

"I did not choose Alaska; it was chosen for me," Minick, 32, said. "I envisioned myself in the Pacific Northwest - but probably in a large city working with homeless people. I was very nervous about coming to Juneau and working with people with mental illness. But when I got here I absolutely loved both parts."

During his year as a volunteer, 1993-94, Minick served in the day services program of what's now called the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.. He met a VISTA volunteer, Kim Champney. They married five years ago. Minick now works for REACH at an assisted-living home.

"The thing that kept me here was the community," he said. "We can feel very open with everybody."

As social workers, avid contra dancers, Klondike Relay racers, and Alaska Folk Festival fans, Minick and Champney have woven their lives into the fabric of Juneau. They keep up their Jesuit volunteer connections by serving as mentors for current volunteers, providing orientation and support.

Other Jesuit volunteer alums in Juneau include Paula Rohrbacher, Kathy Fanning, Nancy Horan, Peggy Mattson, Martha Scott, Diane DeSloover, Dick and Debbie Fagnant and Barbara Bechtold.

"There are a lot of us," confirmed Rohrbacher. "My daughter Phoebe is the 40th child born in Juneau to a former JV."

Rohrbacher, 46, was a volunteer from 1978-80. She worked for the Catholic Diocese of Juneau's St. Ann's Care Center, first in day care and then in the nursery.

"I decided to stay because it's a beautiful place and I had made a great number of friends, especially in the faith community at the cathedral. And I met my husband (peace activist Charles Rohrbacher) when he came here to do a workshop for conscientious objectors."

Originally from Boulder, Colo., Martha Scott, 41, was a Jesuit Volunteer in Bethel from 1983-84 and decided to remain there for 16 years thereafter. "I loved living there," Scott said.

"I am a musician and for many years traveled to the folk fest to perform," Scott said. "I built up friendships that way. I came here a year and a half ago to broaden my musical connections and play with Glacial Erratics."

Last year she worked at Harborview Elementary's special needs preschool with 3- to 5-year-olds. Currently she is preparing for her wedding.

The tongue-in-cheek motto of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is "Be ruined for life." Scott says it's true. "It's a program that really changed my life perspective," she said. "It gives you concrete ideas about how to make the world a better place."

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