Dedication: /noun/ the quality of being committed to a task or purpose. Thank you Mr. Webster. We think this word represents Mady Lacefield – finalist for Volunteer of the Year – perfectly.
When we sat down with Mady for a quick Q&A we had no idea what her volunteer work with local community based organization, Families First, entailed. What we learned was sobering.
Q: Tell us more about the mission of Families First.
A: The work done by the trained team and volunteers at Families First helps those struggling in our community answer the questions: “Where do you turn when you can’t turn to family?” And, “Who helps a family when it can’t help itself?” Services provided include mental health counseling, crisis and suicide intervention, substance abuse education and treatment, domestic violence support, parenting education and more. The focus is on the individual and the family – not just getting them help, but for who they are as people, first.
Q: What is your volunteer role?
A: I’m a sexual assault survivor advocate on the hospital response team. Whenever someone goes to the hospital and they tell a nurse that they have been sexually assaulted and that they want an exam done, the nurse will then call the Families First 24-hour hotline. Once we’ve been reached, one of our volunteers will meet up with the survivor to support them during the exam. It’s definitely emotional and heartbreaking work.
Mady was being modest about her role on the hospital response team. Her nominator, volunteer coordinator, Tocarra Mallard had this to say about Mady’s involvement.
“Mady has served as a volunteer for a little over one year. She has taken the most on-call shifts on the team, completing over 400 hours of on-call coverage and over 20 hours of continuing education this year. When Mady found out that an advocate on the team was pregnant, Mady began signing up for that advocate’s evening shift every single week, and continues to do so in order for our coworker to be with her baby every evening. The baby is almost 10 months old today. Mady steps up even beyond hospital response by attending almost every single educational opportunity or meet up. She welcomes new volunteer advocates on the team and uses her experiences as an advocate to help others learn and grow.”
Q: How has this job affected you as a person?
A: This job has really opened my eyes to sexual assault survivors. I went into the position not really knowing what to expect. I didn’t know too much about how survivors may respond to their situation. It’s emotional when we have to leave someone we have helped at the hospital because we are constantly left to wonder if they got the help they needed. As volunteers, we are not allowed to follow up on the individuals we assist and will never know how their situation turned out. But I do always leave knowing that I did what I could do for them in that moment.
Q: We noticed that you use the term “survivor” and not “victim” when you talk about these individuals. Is that something that Families First emphasizes in your training?
A: Yes, during training, we are taught to use the term “survivor.” These are people who HAVE survived the worst moments imaginable. The word “victim” can have a negative effect and may even make someone feel more defeated. We don’t want them to worry about how they will be labeled. We want them to feel empowered for having survived. Just this simple word can reflect their strength and perseverance. They may not feel like a survivor in the moment, but it’s critical to keep telling them that they are. If they hear it enough, they’ll start to believe it too.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wishes to get involved in volunteer work but is intimidated or unsure of where to start?
A: I would tell them to ask themselves, “What do I feel passionate about?” Once they’ve answered that question, they should research and find an organization that has a related mission. My advice? All it takes is compassion. Don’t worry if you have the specific skills needed in order to volunteer for a nonprofit – you can be trained. If you go in with a compassionate heart, there is really no way you can fail.
Thanks to our United Way of Central Indiana Special Events Intern, Micalah Booher for her help on this piece. Micalah is a recent graduate of the University of Southern Indiana with a double major in Radio & Television and Communication Studies. She was a cross country and track and field student-athlete at USI. She spends her free time with friends and working out at the YMCA. Thanks Micalah!