FILE - In this October 17, 2016, Johnson County Board of Supervisors and the Crisis Center of Johnson County bring food to Elizabeth Tate school food pantry. Tate has an above average free and reduced lunch rate the pantry will be available for students Monday and Friday. (Simone Banks-Mackey/The Daily Iowan, file)

Guest opinion: Volunteering at the Crisis Center is needed, rewarding


When I initially opted to volunteer at the Johnson County Crisis Center as a crisis-intervention specialist, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would allow me to contribute locally in a direct-service, peer-centered way. I wanted a chance to give back to a community that I love.

What I got was a healthy dose of perspective and an experience that is as rewarding as it is occasionally perplexing and as valuable as it is complicated.

I currently volunteer for one three-hour shift per week at the Crisis Center, during which I take calls via our 24-hour
Crisis Line. More than 100 volunteers cover more than 70 shifts per week. This operation exists right here in Johnson County, and it is incredible.

Crisis-intervention training is lengthy. And necessary. And amazing. I trained from February to May. As part of a training class of folks with similar volunteer goals, I automatically felt connected to my peer volunteers.

The breadth of information I received was extensive. I felt overwhelmed at the time, but when faced with a tough call, I’m so grateful for all of the information I received. Training schedules are structured to accommodate even the craziest schedules, which is a big plus. I mean, let’s face it — I’m a busy working mom with a husband in graduate school, so the option to make my own schedule was necessary.

The support I experienced in training didn’t end when I began volunteering, either. I spend every shift at the Crisis Center with a call-room manager who oversees every call I take. My call-room manager has been invaluable and has provided me with near-constant support and feedback and has acted as a much-needed sounding board.

I’ve taken so many calls these last few months, and I’ve learned so many things. I’ve learned, in being patient with others, to be more patient with myself. I’ve learned that, more often than not, people just need to feel heard. I’ve learned that a crisis is a very personal, relative thing and that it’s not our job to judge what constitutes one. But in volunteering at the Crisis Center, we get to assist people in addressing crises head-on by helping them recognize their own strengths.

During one of my first shifts, post-training, I took a call from a young woman who had recently had a baby and was concerned about all of the complexity,
confusion, and emotional upheaval that came with the experience. She was emotionally wrecked and without support. She needed someone to hear her and to remind her that she was a good mom to her older children and a good person in general, that she was doing the best she could.

She was just a person in need. And she could have been me. I think about that call often. I think about how different that woman sounded at the end of the call than she did at the beginning of it, about how I worked through the call with the near-constant support of my call-room manager, and about the empathy I felt for someone I didn’t even know.

The Crisis Center is always looking for volunteers. Its fall volunteer application deadline is Sept. 20, so if you’re interested, you could be through training and volunteering in time for the holidays. Visit the Crisis Center website at to view the training schedule and apply. The Crisis Center runs on volunteer power, so please consider being a part of this amazing organization.

— Leah Gehlsen Morlan

Iowa City


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