Ilse Irving

Crisis Office Volunteer Gives Back

When Ilse Irving retired from teaching high school students, she looked to give back to the community in a meaningful way.  Many years ago, Ilse formed a friendship with a former student who suffered from physical and sexual abuse.  The plight of her friend lead her to explore the Bay Area Women’s Center and its mission to eliminate domestic and sexual violence. 

“My experiences have truly been eye-openers for me.  Prior to my retirement, I had never been aware of the poverty, all the pain and suffering in our community. “

“It does not take a lot to be successful as a crisis office volunteer,”  says Ilse.  You need to listen to people, as well as to be positive, non-judgmental and understanding,” she explains.  However, she knows the crisis office is important.  “There are routine phone calls as well as crisis calls.  Shelter requests and other paperwork need to be filled out properly,” Ilse says.

Crisis office volunteer duties include:

  • Answering phones
  • Completing forms, such as requests for bus passes, child care, shelter intake
  • Providing clients with personal needs items, such as shampoo, soap, toothbrush, etc.
  • Distributing mail to clients
  • Accepting donations from organizations and individuals

One of Ilse’s favorite things is interactions with clients.  “Maybe my 38 years as a public school teacher have given me patience, acceptance, understanding for/of all kinds of people, and they open up to me,” she says.

Ilse says volunteering at the center is also fun.  She enjoys working with the staff members.   “This is my favorite place to volunteer,” she says.  “I know it sounds corny, but I really do want to make a small difference in the lives of some people who need a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen.”

Bay Area Women’s Center is grateful for Ilse and all our wonderful volunteers.  All volunteers are fully trained and always appreciated.  If you would like to find out more about volunteering, please contact us at 989-686-4551.

Roger Soule

Crisis Hotline from a Volunteer’s Perspective

If you telephone the Bay Area Women’s Center on a Friday morning, chances are that you will be hearing Roger Soule’s voice answering your call.  Roger is a volunteer in a vital role at the center. 

“I know how busy workers get and I thought I could alleviate some of the pressure by helping answer the phones,” explains Roger, who worked for the State of Michigan for 36 years.  Before his retirement, Roger ran the child welfare programs in Saginaw County.

Roger knew he wanted to do something different in retirement, but still close to what he knows.  He enjoys his Friday mornings at the center.  “I like the people.  The job is not hard, you just have to learn it and keep up with it.  You get trained,” he says.

Answering what is called the “crisis hotline” can sound intimidating, but anyone can do it, Roger believes.  They just have to be willing to go through the training and put themselves out there for other people.

“All you need is to be pleasant to people and answer the phone.  Everything else you can be trained in,” Roger says.  “It helps to be able to remain calm about things.  People need understanding when they call us.”  Roger says that volunteers need to remember that they are not responsible for the caller’s problems.  “I don’t own it, all I can do is assist them,” he explains. 

People call in all different types of crisis situations.  One woman called for help because she had been living in her car for the past two weeks.  She was not a victim of violence, so she did not fit the criteria for BAWC, however, Roger was able to refer her to local homeless shelters.

If someone is thinking about going into social work, this is a good way to dabble in the field.  For others interested in helping people, there is no better way than this.

Sister Maria Beckman, O.P.

Long Time Volunteer and Board Member

Sister Maria Beckman has a true passion for peace, an incredible sense of humor and is a longtime advocate of the Bay Area Women’s Center.  She has served on the board of directors for over ten years.

As part of the Grand Rapids Dominicans, Sister Maria served the Church as a teacher, principal, director of religious education, pastoral associate and pastor.  “After 50 years of church ministry, I knew that I must do something to make a difference for women and children,” explained Sister Maria.  “I had some training in non-violence.  I began to get involved in our Bay Area Women’s Center.” 

Sister Maria has been involved in everything at the center from participating in awareness marches, to planting trees and flowers on the grounds.  She is also committed to getting young people involved in the organization. 

As a vocal supporter of the Bay Area Women’s Center, Sister Maria is actively reaching out to local organizations and churches to share the mission of the organization – to eliminate domestic and sexual violence.  “You can always find me with friends trying to break this cycle of violence,” she proudly states. 

As a member of the fund development committee, Sister Maria is often seeking contributions or promoting the center’s bread sale.  “Fund development is important to me to keep our residence running smoothly,” says Sister Maria.  “This is a good way to get our story out to the publics and get more involvement.”   

“My car knows its way in delivering food, clothing, books and funds to this shelter,” Sister Maria says.  “In these tough times I feel it is important to walk with our women and children to make a difference.”


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Volunteers are vital to BAWC and we would not be in existence without the work of volunteers who started our agency in 1975. We will thrive only as long as we have volunteers to complete our caring-compassionate staff.

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