December 2023 VOlunteer of the Month
It’s not often that a nonprofit organization is lucky enough to have long-term volunteers. Fortunately, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has been working with John P., our December 2023 Volunteer of the Month, for more than 12 years!
John finds that volunteering provides a “meaningful connection with the human experience.” He recognizes something special in helping those in need and wonders why more people aren’t drawn to the fulfilling world of volunteering.
When John began volunteering with NRS, technologies were not as advanced as they are today, as such, and we did not offer chat and texting functions through our online crisis services. When reflecting on how crisis contacts have changed during his tenure as a volunteer, John notes that today’s youth are more attuned to their mental health and that of their family members, often seeking a proactive approach when reaching out. Also, the dynamics of the conversations have evolved, with fewer discussions on reconciliation and a greater emphasis on creating safety plans for those youth who are determined to leave home.
Every chat, according to John, is a surprise and an eye-opener. He finds it particularly impactful when young people reach out shortly after a traumatic experience, highlighting the immediate impact NRS can have on someone’s life.
John appreciates the opportunity to volunteer independently from home, knowing his NRS team members are just a chat away. Having honed his listening skills over the years, he emphasizes the value of being an active listener, a skill that extends beyond volunteering and into all aspects of life.
A retired software engineer, John first became interested in software development during the 1970s when computers were more akin to punch cards than the sophisticated machines we use today. From programming tic-tac-toe games in high school to contributing to the development and innovation of household intercom systems, John’s technological journey has been remarkable.
Even in retirement, John continues to create, currently developing an Android app to assist individuals diagnosed with ADHD in addressing short-term memory issues. During our interview, he shared an innovative idea for an app, the “Do Better System,” aimed at improving the efficiency of NRS volunteers and team members. This system would allow individuals to log thoughts and ideas after a crisis call or chat, creating a repository of valuable information accessible to others facing similar situations.
Even more remarkable, John has continued to volunteer and create apps while undergoing medical treatment, after being diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. He mentioned that though treatment has been tough, he has found solace and purpose in helping others. His battle with cancer has taught him valuable life lessons, emphasizing the importance of what truly matters and instilling patience within himself and others.
According to John, cancer became his teacher, reminding him that there is always more to learn. John encourages retired individuals to consider volunteering, asserting that sharing one’s story is a precious gift and an essential part of the human experience. He believes that our instinct to help one another is what has kept humanity thriving, and volunteering is a tangible way to contribute to this collective well-being.
In honoring John P., the National Runaway Safeline recognizes not only a dedicated volunteer but also a beacon of hope, resilience and compassion. He inspires others to follow in his footsteps and make a positive impact on the lives of those in need.