Meet the National Runaway Safeline’s (NRS) April 2018, volunteer of the month, Steve Van Pelt, and learn why he chooses to serve youth in crisis at NRS.
How did you first get involved with NRS? My last 20 years in New York City, I taught in the public school system. After retiring, I began to miss the stimulation, insight, and pleasure that I had experienced in teaching through my contact with young people. I noticed a poster for NRS on the bulletin board at the Edgewater Library and decided to explore the possibility of becoming a volunteer.
Why do you choose to keep coming back to work as a youth crisis volunteer?
I value the atmosphere of the site, the ways in which everyone is attempting to reach out and to help others. It is somehow reassuring. I value the interactions with callers; the opportunity, in a small way, to try to assist those who are struggling, often in circumstances that are challenging, at times, even threatening.
What have you gained from your experience? I would say an extension of what I learned in my teaching, that young people have a lot to give: energy, a fresh perspective, the enjoyment of being in the early phase of their lives. Also, I am impressed that often the young people who call in evidence a good understanding of their situation. They tend to be, perhaps, more aware of the type of behavior in guardians that is problematic, even unacceptable, than my generation when we were that age.
Can you tell us about a call that stuck with you? I received a call from a young man who wanted to return home to his father through the Home Free program. In my interactions with each, I sensed a strong will, combined with an underlying affection and regard. It was an example, for me, of how attempting to maintain one’s integrity as an individual often places stress upon a relationship. Life is complicated, relationships are challenging, yet people will endure great inconvenience, even significant suffering, to maintain them.
Any last thoughts? Partly by growing older, partly from my teaching, I came to realize that we never know how far the ripples of our actions extend. The help that is offered here will reverberate into the future in ways we shall never know.