Many of us may not know that April is Volunteer Awareness Month, yet those of us who work in public service are aware that volunteers form a critical part of an organization’s capacity to deliver services. In domestic violence and sexual assault agencies, volunteers may staff crisis and support lines, provide advocacy in the courts, or help repair items at a shelter. Volunteers bring many skillsets to the table that allow crisis centers to operate on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week, 365 days out of the year.
The root of volunteerism runs deep within the domestic and sexual violence prevention movement. Many of the women involved in the early movement understood the need to provide services to victim-survivors based on their experiences either as volunteers or professional workers in churches and social service agencies, or due to their own personal histories. There were no local organizations offering assistance to victim-survivors of domestic violence, so volunteers took it upon themselves to build support networks. Regardless of gender, people have stepped up over the years and continue to do so.
Fortunately, funding for services increased once domestic and sexual violence garnered more attention due to people tirelessly volunteering their time to gain awareness of the lack of support and options available to victim-survivors and their children. This funding allowed for the transformation from a largely all-volunteer movement to paid, professionally trained advocates. It also provided funding for emergency shelters so that people no longer had to only depend on the generosity of those opening their homes to those who are fleeing violence. But it did not replace the great importance volunteers play within crisis centers, as more awareness created an increased demand for services and greater oversight of how services are offered.
Today, volunteers remain critical providers of direct services in Sullivan County. Caring and compassionate adults who volunteer at Turning Points Network may answer calls to our crisis and support line and are trained in an array of advocacy services. They also provide much needed administrative and maintenance support. Volunteers are also a huge part of how TPN has been able to continue running the annual event Steppin’ Up to End Violence. TPN is just one of many agencies in Sullivan County who have benefitted from the generous spirit of our community.
OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing, and hope. We can be reached at 1-800-639-3130. More information can be found at www.turningpointsnetwork.org.