People of Housing Security:
Cinda O’Connor

Shalom Center’s longest volunteer of 23 years shares her story on how she got involved with volunteering and her love for giving back to her community.

Cinda O’Connor was first inspired to get involved in her community during a service at her church, First United Methodist Church. During the season of Lent, her pastor charged the congregation with an idea for Lent. He proposed that, instead of giving something up, try to add something new into your life.

Cinda’s pastor, Joe Emerson, was a founder of Shalom Center, and she felt like this was a calling for her to join Shalom as well. Joe invited Cinda to join Shalom’s board, but Cinda felt like she should volunteer there first to understand Shalom better prior to becoming a board member. 

Cinda’s church provided breakfast once a week for Phil’s Kitchen, Shalom’s meal service. Cinda wasn’t an early bird though, so she opted to help in a different way. Cinda volunteered at the hospitality desk, which involved helping sort and hand out mail, sign people up for showers and the laundry service, as well as hand out necessary products that people may need.

After volunteering a while, Cinda joined the board and served as the board’s secretary for 5 years. She soon discovered she enjoyed volunteering more, and went back to serving the clients of Shalom. She has been there, volunteering on Thursdays, ever since. As Cinda best put it, she is a “full-time volunteer.”

Cinda has been volunteering with Shalom Center from the very beginning, over 20 years ago. When we asked Cinda what keeps her going back year after year, Cinda told us how she’s built a strong connection to Shalom and made relationships with their clients. “Faces become names, and names become people,” Cinda said. She also noted that “they are people just like me, just down on their luck.”

“Faces become names, and names become people.”

– Cinda O’Connor

Cinda explained how she feels like she’s already learned and been exposed to so much by volunteering at Shalom, now part of Beacon Inc., and wants to keep going to learn more. Cinda feels like an ambassador to help educate the general community and feels like “people get hung up on the wrong things.”

Cinda shared how one time she saw a girl at Shalom who was younger than one of her daughters and it broke her heart. She wanted to support her and wondered what happened to this young girl’s family. 

For anyone looking for motivation or a sign to get involved, Cinda emphasized that “there’s nothing to be afraid of” and to “just go!” She thinks people are sometimes scared to volunteer. “Just go there and see if it fits or not,” Cinda said. “There’s nothing to be scared of.”

Aside from being a volunteer, Cinda is a wife, mom of two, and grandma of two. She is from a small town near Evansville, Indiana, graduating with only 44 people in her class. Cinda went to Purdue University where she became a pharmacist and also met her husband. After getting married, they moved to Bloomington so her husband could attend IU Maurer Law School. They have been in Bloomington for 47 years now. 

It was clear talking with Cinda how much she loves people, and she shared with us that a value of hers is being kind to one another. She believes people are meant to be invested in the lives of others. We are grateful to have someone like Cinda spreading her love and kindness in our community through volunteering.

About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.