National Runaway Safeline


June 2022 Volunteer of the Month

Joe Stempel’s first volunteer shift with NRS was in late November 2021. In only seven months, Joe has dedicated twice as many hours as expected of a Crisis Services volunteer. Also, Joe has consistently worked the difficult-to-fill weekend shift. How does he do it? According to Joe, the secret ingredient is the support of the NRS staff and other volunteers… that and a little basketball. Read on to learn more about Joe.


NRS: Why did you decide to volunteer with NRS ?

Joe: The reason I wanted to do this opportunity is I’ve been feeling kind of burned out. Working a lot in Economic Consulting, corporate environment. I wanted to “make a difference” and help people, as cliché as that sounds. I really feel like I make an impact at NRS.
The chats that are most impactful is when someone is really in an intense, emotional situation and really need help sorting it out. They just want someone to connect with and provide a listening ear and resources if we can.

NRS:  What keeps you coming back to volunteer week after week?

Joe: I’m very routine based person, you can really make the schedule that works for you and stick with it. I have a set amount of time in the week, I think if most people think about how they’re spending their time they can carve that time out as a time to volunteer. I’ve had a few times that it doesn’t work, which isn’t great, but I like how I can swap some shifts to make up for it. Staffing is super easy, I can just log in and take a shift.
There’s a lot of orgs that do this work, but I’m from Chicago and I recognized this organization and liked the idea of eventually volunteering with a “local org” even if you are national. Week after week, the volunteers and the supervisors/staff are so well organized, the people that have been doing this, the people that do this for a living are just amazing. I’ve been able to learn a lot.
TEAMS chat can be pretty lively. Lots of stuff going on. Sometimes it can be really heated debates and sometimes just super chill. Having a supervisor available is great. Every time I have a question they get back to me in like just a minute. Having them as resource is great, you never feel like you’re on your own.

NRS:  Tell us something you’ve learned from your experiences volunteering with us?

Joe: There’s a lot!
A lot of kids are in really bad situation. Unfortunately, the systems we have in place as a country have don’t provide great solutions all of the time. I’d be lying if I said we “help” them out of their situations, but we listen and help them work on next steps, so that’s enough sometimes. We can provide a lot of help just by listening.
I’ve learned a lot about the resources we do have available. Especially like when I refer them to the Home Free program, that’s very tangible that we can provide.

NRS: Give us a Fun Fact about yourself that you don’t think someone would be able to guess just by meeting you.

Joe: Despite my appearance, I really enjoy playing basketball. Any time we can I enjoy playing 5 v 5 pick-up games, been playing with the same group of guys for like 5 years.
They’re a group of friends I met through Happy Hour, and we become roommates for years. We lived right by a court. After work we’d go and play every day. One thing lead to another and we met some other people who play and just sort of grew from there playing pick-up. It’s really a great way to relieve stress.

NRS: What would you say to someone who was thinking of volunteering with NRS?

Joe: I would say think about why you want to volunteer. It’s a lot of work. But NRS is a great org. Try to not feel like it’s as big of a time commitment as it seems. You might think “Oh I don’t know if I can fit all that.” But all said and done it’s 2-4 hours a week. You can do that.
It’s the most meaningful time I spend in a week. It’s a unique chance to help someone that is in a desperate situation. I get a lot of personal meaning and fulfillment from helping someone in those times. You will not regret the time you spend volunteering here.

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