Drew O. is the May 2023 volunteer of the month
Thinking back to 2020, many nonprofits like the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) slowed or halted in-person volunteer opportunities because of the risks posed by the pandemic. Fortunately, NRS was able to quickly pivot to remote volunteer training and shifts, bringing into the fold new volunteers from the Chicago area and beyond. Among those who stepped up to help at that time is our May Volunteer of the Month, Drew O.
Prior to the pandemic, Drew volunteered at homeless shelters and with a hospice organization. When those opportunities were no longer available, Drew sought a new meaningful experience where he could give back – from home. He recalls that NRS was one of the few organizations that was accepting new volunteers at the time, and he recognized serving as an NRS Crisis Center volunteer and interacting directly with youth would be a fulfilling experience.
Reflecting on his two years as an NRS volunteer, Drew appreciates that his interactions with vulnerable youth are all unique. Each person has their own, nuanced story, and Drew embraces the chance to help them however needed.
Drew feels empathy and connection with the youth who contact NRS. As a teen, he endured mental health struggles and knows that being an adolescent or young adult today is particularly challenging. He recognizes there is tremendous value in having a safe space like NRS to talk through feelings and share ideas. With this understanding, Drew helps young people remain open to different perspectives and options.
Drew finds the skills and qualities needed in the NRS Crisis Center, such as being non-judgmental and non-directive, are beneficial to his personal interactions. He has become a better listener, gives people space to process and respects other people’s abilities to resolve their issues, stepping in with support as needed.
Professionally, Drew is an electrical engineer with experience in networking and virtual reality system design. One of the more memorable projects he has contributed to was the development of a wing-suit simulator; the device gives users the experience of gliding down a mountain without the real-life danger of being suspended hundreds of feet in the air.
When not working or volunteering, Drew indulges his love of Rock and Blues style music. He has more than ten years of experience playing Stratocasters (a type of electric guitar) and has been a member of a band.
Considering becoming an NRS volunteer? Drew suggests you go for it. He has said that his role in the Crisis Center and the interactions he’s had with many young people make him feel as though he is truly making a difference. To learn more about NRS volunteer opportunities, visit 1800RUNAWAY.org/volunteer.