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Archive for June, 2011

At a time in our Nation’s history, when volunteerism is being encouraged by the White House and statistics show the number of volunteers to be way up and rising, one would expect a gracious and warm reception by those chartered to provide critical services to those in need. Tragically, this is sometimes not the case. This is a brief story of an appalling lack of grace on the part of the Long Island Crisis Center in Bellmore New York: an organization that manages the “crisis hotlines” for the region.

While I haven’t volunteered at the Long Island Crisis Center, my wife, a Fordham trained, licensed social worker with advanced counseling skills, has done so. She committed to all their training and to requisite numbers of shifts over nine months ( many of them requiring very early morning presence). She did so willingly and generously. Yesterday, she received a call (out of the blue and with no prior feedback that this was being considered) that she was “no longer needed” as they thought “this wasn’t really for her”.

This was both unexpected and seemingly arbitrary. Since they have a fresh class of new recruits, I guess they just wanted to hold out for what they regard as more suitable (which seems an inclination toward much younger folk). What a disrespectful, unprofessional and cowardly approach. After nine months, they couldn’t even bring themselves to have a face to face conversation? This is not the behavior of empathic and skilled professionals. It is crude, cruel, & capricious conduct. And these are the folks training others to handle crises on the phone?

There is an unfortunate tendency for many people to become quite ego involved in their volunteer work. As they advance in seniority they become “gatekeepers”. While feedback is always valuable, it is too often motivated by need for power and tends toward the negative. This betrays lack of adequate training at minimum and very likely a petty self- aggrandizement. Small minds and even smaller hearts are signs of the ” shadow” operating behind feigned dedication to service and caring.

In this instance, those who sat in judgment were placing emphasis in keeping conversations on the phone short: a formulaic response designed to meet the minimum requirements. This is supposedly what passes for service to those in emotional crisis. My wife, on the other hand, really wanted to do the right thing and, in the end, was summarily dismissed without even a ceremonial thank you.

Local volunteers beware!

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