BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office is looking for volunteers to join its Victim Assistance Program.
Staffed by trained volunteers, the program offers physical and emotional support to victims of crime, accidents and trauma along with resources to support them in the days ahead.
Longtime Victim Advocate Lalenia Quinlan Aweida has been volunteering for nearly seven years.
“I think it’s built my muscles for compassion,” Quinlan Aweida said. “What keeps me coming back to this is even though it’s hard work, it’s really good work and you know that you are helping someone right in that moment. It’s like you’re just holding space for them.”
The program consists of “on-scene advocates” that respond to a scene at the request of the deputy and “outreach advocates” who follow up afterward.
“We all have those moments where something really bad has happened and we don’t know what the next step is and the best thing you can give someone in that situation is control over their own destiny and that’s what we try to help people do,” Quinlan Aweida said.
Around this time each year, BCSO Commander Jason Oehlkers said there’s always a push for more volunteers. He said they currently have 35 volunteers with the program.
“Every year we work with surrounding agencies and have a Victim Advocate Academy during the month of October and that is three weeks long,” Oehlkers said. “It provides the basic skills that an advocate will need before they go out into the field and help people.”
No prior experience is needed before signing up, but Oehklers said ideal volunteers are 21 years and older.
“I think it is a huge help to the sheriff’s office, but the true benefit to this is really to the community, to the people that have lost loved ones, the people who have been assaulted or are experiencing some sort of grief,” Oehlkers said.
Quinlan Aweida said there are plenty of shifts to choose from, each rewarding in its own way.
“The key is to never think that you know what you’re going to. You just stay open and know it could be anything,” Quinlan Aweida said. “You arrive on scene and find your commanding officer and you’re off and running. It’s never boring, never.”