Not long ago, a young woman gathered her courage, walked through the Tivoli Student Union and into the Phoenix Center. She was troubled. She was a victim. She had come to the right place. “She was the first person I spoke to in person as a volunteer,” explains Michele Rubright. “At the end I asked her if there was anything else I could offer her and she said ‘honestly, just a hug.’” She got it. “It was very rewarding because I could see in her face she was better. I knew she was going to be OK.”
Rubright, at right, is a volunteer at the Phoenix Center, which provides interpersonal violence victim services, prevention education and training on the Auraria Campus. The center, a little more than a year old, assists and educates people who have struggled with domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other forms of abuse.
The center is seeking new Helpline volunteers to:
- provide a listening ear and emotional support to callers.
- explain the criminal justice process.
- discuss options with a survivor.
- direct callers to resources on-campus or in the community.
- educate callers about interpersonal violence.
- assist family and friends in developing skills to help support a loved one who has experienced violence.
- and more.
Training courses for Helpline volunteers begin in September.
Rubright and fellow volunteer Marlinda Hines, at left, stress the volunteering is life changing and well worth the time and training. Volunteer shifts vary: Rubright averages 15 hours a week; Hines works one shift consisting of three or four days each month. While the center mostly serves faculty, staff and students on the Auraria Campus, “I get a lot of calls from community members,” Hines explains, “people who have heard about us from a family member or a friend.”
A recent UC Denver graduate with a degree in criminal justice, Rubright has been volunteering with the Helpline since fall 2009 and has also been volunteering in the office seeing walk-in clients, talking to classes about volunteering, developing the newsletter, and more. “I’m interested in victims’ services,” she says. “This was a great volunteer opportunity.”
Hines, an academic advisor in the School of Education and Human Development, has been with the center since it opened in June 2009. “I work for the campus and I wanted to give back in some way. I have my master’s in counseling from UCD and thought, ‘Why don’t I just learn where I work?’”
Hines recalls a rewarding conversation with a client. “A male caller is rare on our lines. Most who do call are nervous,” she explains. “For me to be able to listen . . . I could tell it took the burden off of him. Men go through this like women do. He took the opportunity to get help for himself. For a male, I thought it was impactful.
“This is a safe place,” Hines says. You’re not going to be judged by your circumstances. This is a resource for everybody, no matter their gender or sexual preference. Everyone can come in and talk about what’s going on and get some support.”
Both admit that although volunteering is well worth it, it’s not always easy.
“It’s difficulty but completely worth it. You need to be able to put your whole heart into it. You can’t go in half motivated,” Rubright says. “I like the fact that when I go home at the end of the day – especially after working with someone face to face – I did something valuable with my day. After talking with someone, they’re so grateful. I was able to offer someone in crisis service and support.”
“It is rewarding to help people in times of need, to take the time to educate them and give resources and provide them with support,” Hines says. “I feel gratified at the end of some conversations because I’ve really helped somebody.”
Volunteers must be ready for the emotional investment, adds Hines. “You get a lot of education also about sex assault, violence and stalking. You are educating yourself and educating others. This field can bring up issues you have in yourself and you have to be ready for that. However, the support around you here will help you with those issues.”
The Phoenix Center at Auraria provides services to all who need them regardless of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, age, religion, ability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, marital status, and veteran status. To find out more about volunteering, check out the website or call 303-556-6011.