|Local chapter of TIP NW offers comfort after tragedies posted on 12/01/2020|
June Vining, Executive Director of Trauma Intervention
Program NW (TIP NW), was a founding volunteer of the organization, a group of
specially trained citizen volunteers who provide emotional aid and practical
support and resources to victims of traumatic events and their families in the
first few hours following a tragedy. When she started, the group responded to
up to a dozen phone calls per month. Now, they average 170 calls per month,
including one Vining responded to the night before talking to The Mountain
Times, when a young woman lost her fiancÚ.
“Showing up (on the worst day of their life) is what’s most
important,” Vining said. “We can’t fix what bad thing has happened. We’re
grateful they weren’t alone. That’s really an honor and a privilege.”
TIP NW coverage area includes all or parts of Multnomah,
Clackamas, Clark, Skamania and Washington Counties. While they have always
responded to calls from the Mountain community, 18 months ago they brought on
five volunteers in and around Hoodland, decreasing the amount of time it takes
for somebody to arrive on the scene.
“Having people right in their area that understand the
community and the resources right there has been huge,” Vining said. “The fact
that we can put people there right away is huge.”
“We’re proud and humbled to volunteer in our community, and
grateful for the opportunities to serve others,” wrote the members of the
Hoodland group, Stephanie Barber, Sally Chester, Feleicia Forston, Nora Gambee
and Debra Sinz, in an email to The Mountain Times. “We joined TIP for the same
reasons we joined Hoodland Fire, to extend our reach and support. With TIP we
are able to go on calls for Hoodland and Sandy Fire Districts, and on-call 24/7/365.”
The volunteers respond to all the “media worthy” calls, she
noted, including being a part of the response to the wildfires earlier this
year, but many more natural deaths and other calls that never make the news,
including drug overdoses, car accidents, violent crimes, fires and people who
are distraught and seeking immediate support. Responders arrive with a manual,
helping guide people to bereavement resources, all the phone numbers that may
be needed and various forms.
“We’ve become kind of experts on what I refer to as the
death system, what happens next,” Vining said.
Of course, the volunteers are also there to help people
process what has happened, helping families to grieve and understand.
“Sometimes you don’t have to say anything,” Vining said.
“Just be here.”
TIP NW currently has 182 active volunteers, with a staff of
four full time employees.
Vining, who noted that the group would welcome more
volunteers or donations, recalled first getting involved as a stay-at-home mom
who just had her third child. She saw an article about the program and how the
training would be offered in Portland, so she told her husband, a homicide
detective, that he should take it and he thought she should volunteer.
Now, Vining is a master trainer and certifies trainers
across the country.
She added that responding to calls has changed a lot in the
nearly three decades since she began: back then cars didn’t have GPS, so they
used the same spiral-bound map book that
firefighters and police officers also used and they also had to carry quarters
and know the locations of payphones in the area.
“Things have changed a lot,” Vining said. “We’re doing a
lot, quiet (and) behind the scene. Hopefully helping the community stay healthy
and appreciated. What we do puts a human touch on what’s become a high-tech
For more information on TIP NW, or to learn how to volunteer
or donate, visit www.tipnw.org.
By Garth Guibord/MT