Harvey Lewis, former liner at NRS, recently reached out to express his support for the organization. He also shared his thoughts on his time at NRS, and why he chooses to support youth in crisis.

How did you first get connected with NRS?

By Harvey Lewis

Harvey Lewis on Working as a Liner at NRS

How did you first get connected with NRS?

I was new to Chicago—actually, I hadn’t even officially moved there from Dallas—when the 9/11 attacks hit. I felt the need to contribute in some concrete way.

Most of my volunteering in Dallas had been around kids. I had coached my boys in Little League Baseball and loved it, but as they grew out of it, nothing had yet taken its place. So in the aftermath of 9/11, I sat down one night at my laptop and started searching for volunteer opportunities in Chicago. That’s when the NRS popped up, a bit like a bolt of lightning. I just felt that was it. I reached out that night and the next day heard from Molly Billette, inviting me to come in.

Molly’s obvious love for NRS and her job as Volunteer Coordinator was obvious and infectious: I was sold. I couldn’t wait to get started and worked the training around my job so I could volunteer as soon as possible.

Molly told me that they encourage people to work in roughly 2-hour stints, that the emotion it took was challenging. What I found was that as hard emotionally as it was, I always felt a “high” at the end of every shift. Feeling like I actually helped someone that day was hugely fulfilling.

I normally worked 3-hour stints on nights and weekends, and each time couldn’t wait until the next time. I loved it so much that when they asked me to be a part-time supervisor filling in when needed, it was a giant YES.

Why do you choose to support NRS?

Besides being a dad, working as a liner at NRS is the most rewarding thing I have experienced in my life. The fulfillment from knowing that you’re part of a group that saves lives and gives youth in crisis the opportunity at having a better life is enormous. In the five years that I was a Liner, we helped thousands in crisis. NRS does not just talk the talk but 100% walks the walk. Maureen Blaha and her staff are consummate leaders with their love for helping youth at their very core. Volunteers who are accepted into the organization live that truth also.

Why would you encourage a youth in crisis to contact the National Runaway Safeline?

With NRS, a youth in crisis has a supportive ear who is non-judgmental. Liners are aware that their listening may be the first time, perhaps ever, that the boy or girl feels truly heard. And of course, all calls are anonymous so they don’t have to worry about being tracked or called out.

And should a runaway want to go home (and NRS feels secure it will be a positive return), they have partnerships with companies who will make that happen at no cost.

But the bottom line is this: at National Runaway Safeline, it is the youth’s wellbeing that matters. NRS staffers and volunteers do everything possible to help them get on a path for a happy, fulfilling life.

If you are in the Chicago area and interested in becoming a youth crisis services volunteer at NRS, email Jamin Draves at JDraves@1800RUNAWAY.org.


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