Take care of your Garfield County neighbors, volunteer says
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” Cheri Murray always makes sure there’s a notepad by the phone.
She could get a call from a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy and needs that notepad to take down information about victims of crimes so she can help them out.
The pad is particularly helpful in the middle of the night, which isn’t a good time to go searching for a pen and paper, especially when someone’s been traumatized and could use a hand.
Murray is a volunteer for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Victims Assistance Program. That can often mean volunteering to get woken up in the wee hours with a potentially urgent situation at hand.
“Most of us work night shifts, and the typical call comes in the night I’m asleep,” Murray said.
But there’s plenty of calls during the day, too, and Murray’s learned the habit of keeping a notepad by the phone comes in handy in everyday life.
Volunteers are asked to go out and meet with victims or their families, or sometimes just call them to check on them and offer help. They talk with victims, help them calm down and connect them with resources like the Advocate Safehouse Project. They also help with death notifications and answer any questions they can about law enforcement and the courts.
“We’re a bridge between the crisis that just happened and people getting their lives back together,” Murray said. “(Volunteers) help bring some clarity into the situation and get things moving back toward normal, because people are strong, they’re not going to stay there.”
One role a volunteer plays is to record information. People may not remember who was there, what law enforcement is saying or other details if they’re in shock, Murray said.
Part of it’s just support. There’s someone there to talk to the victim while deputies focus on investigating crimes and gathering information. On death notifications, volunteers stay with the person and try to make sure friends and family get there.
“It is very rewarding,” Murray said. “I think what’s kind of interesting for me is it’s kind of an edgy situation.”
It’s spontaneous. Murray described stepping into people’s lives during a traumatic event and sometimes being touched by their strength. She said even someone in a remote part of Garfield County “really is my neighbor.”
She steered away from discussing much about specific calls. She said there’s a tendency to sensationalize crime and volunteers are merely there to help people.
Murray also wouldn’t want a victim to recognize a story and feel that confidentiality was violated.
“I think we’re all aware of what does happen and we’re in a position to help ” and that feels good,” Murray said. “I think it helps a civil society stay a civil society when we care about our neighbors.”
Murray’s a Glenwood resident, a massage therapist and a part-time gardener. She started volunteering for the program when it was created. Program manager Vicki Jones said she started the program in 2004.
“Lou Vallario became sheriff and that was one of the promises he made, and we were one of the two areas left in the state that was not providing this service,” she said.
Jones said the program helped about 240 victims the first year and a little over 500 last year. There were about 5,688 volunteer hours given to the program last year. It currently has about two full-time employees and 15 volunteers but could use about 20 more, Jones said. She said last year’s expenses were under $100,000 and the program is funded mostly through grants and partially by the county.
Murray plans to keep on volunteering with the program. And she’ll always have that notepad by her phone.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
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