Volunteers an essential element of AWARE

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2003

When Kitty Gundy signed up to volunteer at the AWARE shelter in August, she didn't know her shopping skills would be her most valuable asset.

"I went there and I talked to Cyd and told her I'd be willing to volunteer for whatever the shelter needed to have done," Gundy said, referring to Cydney Boyer, volunteer coordinator at Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies, or AWARE. "It turns out their shopper had just stopped volunteering, so that was what they needed."

Gundy spends about four hours a week on a shopping trip that takes her from Costco to Fred Meyer to the Southeast Alaska Food Bank, buying food and office supplies for the shelter. She is one of more than 100 volunteers who directly or indirectly help AWARE support abused women and children in Juneau, said Boyer.

"We have all different kinds of volunteers," Boyer said. Professionals, such as counselors, self-defense instructors and massage therapists, donate specific time and skills. Others just help with what is needed.

Pam Stigall, a professional substance-abuse counselor, volunteers to lead two classes a week for victims at the shelter. She lived in a similar shelter 18 years ago, and said AWARE's mission is "close to my heart."

"I think the biggest reward is meeting women after they've been out of the shelter or out of the groups and having them say 'Hi' and telling me that they're safer and their kids are safer," Stigall said.

Amy Carroll spends about two weeks a year putting together the brochure for the shelter's annual Women of Distinction fund-raising dinner.

"There's not a lot of expertise there in that area, and it kind of takes a little bit of stress off of them," Carroll said.

She began volunteering for the agency in several capacities - answering the crisis line, helping with office work and checking in residents - several years ago.

"I think it serves an important need and the demographic they serve, I don't think they have a very big voice in the community," Carroll said. "It just seemed like something that was important."

Carroll completed a 40-hour volunteer training program the shelter offers twice a year for women who want to become advocates for victims.

The advocates work with AWARE clients, "to help the woman see all of the options that she has," Boyer said.

They operate the Sexual Assault Response Team phone line, help clients fill out paperwork associated with social-service programs, and help the women find employment. Volunteer advocates do not have to have any specialized degree to work at the shelter, although some do.

Though only women can become victim advocates, the shelter has jobs for others, Boyer said. She asks potential volunteers about their skills and interests, and tries to match them with an appropriate need.

"We can always use somebody that can fix things," she said.

The shelter's "wish list" includes cooks, painters, people to help with bulk mailings, child-care workers, Web designers, somebody to take the recycling to Waste Management, and someone to help install playground equipment.

"We can't even begin to do the things that we do without volunteers," Boyer said.

For more information about volunteering at AWARE, call Cydney Boyer at 586-6623.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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