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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 world.”

For more information on TIP NW, or to learn how to volunteer or donate, visit www.tipnw.org.

By Garth Guibord/MT





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