Personal rewards a perk for those helping to fight domestic violence

The work is hard and the pay is nonexistent, but volunteers at Safe Nest and the Rape Crisis Center say they’ve never had a more rewarding job.

“I’m really happy to be doing work that helps people when they really need it,” said Lisa Serriolo, who volunteers with the Rape Crisis Center. “I think we really make a difference here.”

The Rape Crisis Center, 801 S. Rancho Drive, is set to begin a 50-hour training program April 22. The sessions are scheduled three nights a week for five weeks.

“You don’t have to have a professional background to be a volunteer here,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of center. “We have people here with many different backgrounds. What our volunteers have in common is they want to give back to the community. We need more volunteers like them — people who are good in crisis situations.”

Volunteers must be 21 or older and pass a criminal background check and a drug test. Volunteers help victims understand what the sexual assault exam entails, what to expect from law enforcement and help them through the multi-step court process.

“It’s great because our volunteers can work from home,” Dreitzer said. “Our shifts are typically four to six hours. We can forward calls to their home number or cellphone, but you have to be ready to be on hand at a moment’s notice, so you can’t be doing anything else. On the one hand, it’s very convenient, and on the other, it’s very stressful.”

The hotline operates 24/7, and about 25 volunteers are working it most of the time, but the Rape Crisis Center is always seeking help so the work can be spread out more and volunteers can take a break from the schedule.

Safe Nest, 2915 W. Charleston Blvd., provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and prevention for domestic violence victims.

Its need for volunteers includes people who can help clients through court programs, assist at the shelter and offer safety planning.

“We’re looking for compassionate, nonjudgmental people,” said Teri Weathers, supervisor of training and volunteer resources at Safe Nest. “We’re looking for people who’ve got an understanding of domestic violence. A lot of our volunteers are survivors themselves or have been affected by domestic violence. All of our volunteers are doing direct client services.”

Safe Nest has two training sessions a year: one in January and one in September. The sessions are 40 hours and take place over four weeks. Weathers usually begins going through volunteer applications eight weeks before training.

“We’re looking for people who are consistent and can work with our clients in the way that we work,” she said. “It’s not about rescuing anybody or saving anyone’s life. It’s about helping clients identify their own resources, tap into the community’s resources and helping to guide them through their own choices and give them support.”

Both charities have made the decision to conserve resources by offering training sessions for a limited time each year, but they are always looking for any help they can get.

“It’s definitely not an easy job, but it is an incredibly rewarding job,” Dreitzer said. “It provides people an opportunity to make a difference for someone at such a critical moment.”

To volunteer, contact the Rape Crisis Center at rcclv.org or 702-385-2153 or Safe Nest at safenest.org or 702-877-0133, ext. 251.

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.