Connecting During COVID

One local teen is making a difference with a pen and paper

Article by Michelle Talsma Everson

Photography by David Apeji

Originally published in Chandler Lifestyle

As a biomedical engineering major, Arizona State University freshman David Perez Vazquez plans to spend his future career making the world a better place. And, even though he’s just getting started in his studies, he’s already making a difference.

A member of the Next Generation Service Corps, he had to complete community service hours before the semester started—but with the pandemic, opportunities to volunteer in-person were hard to come by. So he found the next best thing—volunteering by writing letters to the residents of Ozanam Manor, a transitional housing facility at St. Vincent de Paul.

“It [writing letters] was difficult at first because I had no specific name of who I was writing to,” Perez Vazquez explains. “But, I kept it informal—I introduced myself, delved deeper into my interests, and made it an open-ended conversation.”

Three to four letters into writing, he began receiving replies.

“It provides companionship and the ability to connect with another person during the pandemic,” he says.

“We are so grateful when volunteers like David reach out because they want to make a difference in the community,” says Shawn Donnelly, community engagement officer at St. Vincent de Paul. “Sharing our Help From Home Guide with him and providing David the chance to select a way to give back that was meaningful and uplifting for him is half of St. Vincent de Paul’s mission.”

While Perez Vazquez has experience volunteering for other nonprofits in person, he says that writing letters has taught him that there’s more than one way to connect with a person.

“Even though my service hours are done, I plan on continuing writing. The severity of this pandemic is not decreasing; and there’s always something we can do to help each other.”

To learn more about volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul, visit

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