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Greater Portland group searching for volunteers to help people through trauma

The Trauma Intervention Program of Greater Portland has been around since 2005. The next training academy for volunteers starts March 3.

WESTBROOK, Maine — The worst day of someone's life can often involve some sort of trauma, whether it's the death of a loved one, getting into an accident, or being the victim of a crime. 

One volunteer group in Greater Portland helps people get through those moments of hardship. Now, they need more people to participate. 

The Trauma Intervention Program of Greater Portland has been around since 2005. It's a chapter of the national non-profit Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc., which was founded in 1985 and now has 14 affiliates in more than 250 cities across the United States. 

TIP  volunteers receive special training to provide emotional first aid and support to survivors of traumatic events and their families immediately after events such as a natural or unexpected death, rape, assault, robbery or burglary, fire or car crash. TIP of Greater Portland works with local law enforcement and hospitals in Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, Cumberland, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Scarborough, and Windham to respond to calls.

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Ken Olsen has been director of TIP of Greater Portland since December. He said COVID-19 has presented some challenges. At the height of the pandemic, a lot of calls took place over the phone instead of in person. In addition, the program lost some volunteers since a lot of people who take part are older and more at risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19. Olsen said TIP of Greater Portland is only about halfway staffed and needs more people.

"There aren't any qualifications that are required to be a TIP volunteer, other than somebody who's caring and compassionate and wants to help their neighbors in need," said Olsen. "All of the training provided gives you all the tools that you need."

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The next training academy for TIP of Greater Portland is happening in March. Olsen said it's a 10-day training (55 hours in total), some in person and some remote. Anyone can sign up, as long as they:

  • have access to a cell phone and the Internet.
  • can commit to three 12-hour on-call shifts per month.
  • are able to attend a continuing education meeting one evening per month while volunteering.
  • have a clean background check and proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
  • want to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors on their darkest days.

"It's incredibly rewarding to be able to sit down with people in some of the most difficult hours of their lives and know that you've made a difference when you've left," said Olsen. "It's an incredibly heartwarming feeling."

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The dates and times for this training academy are as follows:

  • Thursday, March 3 (in person), 6:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Friday, March 4 (in person), 6:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 5 (in person), 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 6 (in person), 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 8 (online), 6:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 10 (online), 6:30 p.m.- 10 p.m.
  • Friday, March 11 (online), 6:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 12 (in person), 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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For more information or to register for the TIP Training Academy, call 207-619-1175 or email ken.tipmaine@gmail.com.