Volunteers of the Month – May *Mara & Olivia*

“Volunteering is at the very core of being human. No one has made it through life without someone else’s help.” – Heather French Henry

As social beings, supporting one another through “thick and thin” is a crucial aspect of everyone not simply achieving some set goal of what success looks like to them, but of personally surviving in hard times, thriving in good ones, and sustaining during everything that comes in between. For many people – our Volunteer of the Month honorees for May numbered among them – volunteering is a way of providing that helping hand to others so that together we may overcome whatever challenges life creates.

A Random Acts sponsee, Mara became a certified crisis responder in June of 2019 and since that date has volunteered over 500 hours toward the humble goal of “helping with any kind of issues someone may have.” Everyone’s crisis looks different, of course, because it’s their own, and Mara relies on a “greatest asset of empathy” to “walk with their shoes and really understand what they’re going through” as she works with them to find a safe set of steps to continue moving forward to eventually overcome their crisis. Supervisors praise Mara’s balance of abilities and the cheerful attitude (and the puppy-centric stories) she brings to every shift. Her tact with language allows her to help the person in crisis express their feelings, even if at first they don’t know what they are trying to – or want to – say; this skill shines through in well-world and carefully thought out responses. Connecting to challenging chatters with a grace and ease bolstered by instinctive understanding and empathetic care, Mara is a bright spot to those she speaks with, helping them move from a difficult place to a better one. She frequently does so by walking conversational paths unexpected and with unique takes on the exploration of options; it’s a joy for the team to watch and learn how effective it can be to take another approach to the process of crisis intervention. Over the years Mara has embraced, too, steps and feedback to improve her skills and all around commitment to volunteerism. It is with profound joy and gratitude for her resounding answer to the call of volunteerism that we name Mara an IMAlive Volunteer of the Month!

Joining the IMAlive team in May of 2017, Olivia’s commitment to the kindness inherent in volunteering has not been as random as the “random” in the Random Acts sponsorship she received for training and certification may imply. Fostering a “hope to be able to give back even a fraction of what was given to me,” Olivia felt upon embarking on this journey that, “If I can help even one person then it will be worth it.” With well over 700 hours of chatting time to her credit, Olivia has certainly helped that one person and countless others. Supervisors rate Olivia as an all around pleasure to have on shift, and note she is a hugely capable and “absolutely awesome!” crisis responder who gets that the process of helping relies not just on personal skills, but on a foundation of teamwork; demonstrating an eagerness and willingness to tackle whatever comes her way and remaining unfazed by any situation a chatter may share or face, Olivia is unafraid to ask for help and in doing so honestly confront insecurities and continue to develop as a responder and prime example of a forever learner while being ever-ready to support others in any way she can. Above all, Olivia is insightful – hearing the deeper message from the person even when the words they type fail to make clear their complete struggles. She adeptly guides each person she connects with through the help process without direct suggestion or outright advice – a skill requiring a combined focus on the person’s words, spoken and unspoken resources, and an empathetic grasp of their situation. A cat lover with a great sense of humor, during down time Olivia is known to inject the shift with a fitting GIF or two (or more). A most deserving and dedicated volunteer, we are honored to celebrate Olivia as a Volunteer of the Month!

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