Volunteer Month 2022
Throughout April, we are recognizing our talented and compassionate volunteers. We are so grateful for their time and dedication.
Get to know just a few of them below:
Bev Gulazian has been supporting domestic violence survivors at the Newburyport District Court for the past 16 years. She joined the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center as a volunteer court advocate in 2006 and has continued to work with hundreds of domestic violence survivors since then.
When Bev was an English teacher at Amesbury High School years ago, she had two students disclose that they were experiencing abuse. It had such a profound effect on her that it propelled her into thinking about ways she could help in the community. Soon after, she participated in the Center’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Training Program and began her journey as a court volunteer.
Bev has always cared about human rights. As the Social Studies Department Head in the 1990s, she created two classes on equality and justice, the first of their kind in the school. After writing a grant, she received funds for books and materials for the classes, one on Black studies and the other a minorities studies course. Understanding the value and importance of helping others, she later created the community service program for students at the school.
Bev says she has always been strong willed, and helping others to recognize their own strength is very rewarding. She recognizes the challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence, and enjoys helping them see a way to the light, to finding their own power. She says, “I feel very good that I’m in a place to help those that need it”
Shortly after graduating from college, Alli was listening to a true crime podcast about Nicole Brown Simpson’s case and was struck by the injustices in the legal system related to domestic violence. One of the survivors featured spoke about how difficult and traumatizing the court process was in her own case. She had experienced very severe and dangerous abuse by her partner and had not expected to be re-traumatized a second time by the system that was supposed to protect her. Alli decided then that she wanted to find some small way to help others experiencing domestic abuse. Soon after, she reached out to the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center about the volunteer program. She joined as a Hotline Advocate in early 2016, after completing our 30-hour Domestic Violence Advocacy Training.
Alli has since provided support to countless domestic violence survivors calling on our 24-hour hotline, sometimes taking calls in the middle of the night. She offers critical guidance and a connection to the Center for further support, if needed. She also volunteers at the Walk Against Domestic Violence each year and has helped distribute flyers throughout our communities. Alli is always eager to learn more about domestic violence and contributes regularly to the conversations at our bi-monthly Advocate Meetings.
Alli says that although it’s very difficult to hear the pain of what people are experiencing and how much they are struggling, it is very rewarding to play a small role in helping them find a brighter future. She is always struck by the gratitude survivors express for listening to their story.
In 2018, after retiring and relocating to the Newburyport area, Peter was looking for a way to be of value in his new community. He reached out about volunteering after learning of the work of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. Since then, he has been integral to our volunteer program by filling many important roles. He began by leading a faith-based initiative, which provides critical community engagement to local churches. He then joined the Board of Directors where he served for three years, when he also lent his expertise on the Finance Committee and Walk Committee, which provides planning and support for our annual Walk Against Domestic Violence.
In 2019, Peter completed our 30-hour Domestic Violence Advocacy Training to become a volunteer Court Advocate and currently continues in that role. During the height of the pandemic, Peter compiled a valuable guide on the lengthy online restraining order process for all the Center’s court volunteers to use when providing remote court assistance to domestic violence survivors. Now that the courts have reopened, he offers his time weekly with in-person support.
After the court re-opening last June, Peter said “Walking through the courthouse doors, I was quickly reminded how there is an even greater need for vital help for our friends and neighbors who may be suffering in silence.” He added, “As is the philosophy at the Center, advocates don’t prescribe a particular path to choose. Instead, we empower survivors with information, options, and our full support.” Thank you Peter!
Throughout her entire life, Sally has focused on women and children, with a personal mission to provide every woman and child the opportunity to reach their potential. When she got involved with the Center, she realized the prevalence of domestic violence and domestic violence homicide and was stunned. Sally feels strongly that women, and men, must be able to live safe and stable lives and raise their children in supportive communities.
Sally joined the Center’s Board of Directors in June of 2020 and decided to first lend her focus to the Governance Committee; after a year, she became Chair of that committee. The Committee is focused on ensuring the Center has the strongest and most effective board possible to support the organization’s mission and work. One of her top priorities is to diversify the Board of Directors and uphold the commitment of the Center to work in marginalized communities and focus on racial justice, equity, and inclusion. Part of this work will include educating and training board members to effectively support these goals.
Sally’s participation on the Board provides her an opportunity to use her leadership and professional experience in support of others who are vulnerable and in need. To quote her,
“The work that the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center does with survivors of domestic violence and in high-risk cases is critically important; people’s lives are at stake. The Center also works to end the cycle of domestic violence, through its work with children, Girls Inc., bystander education and violence prevention. Having raised two daughters, I know how important it is for children to understand healthy relationships and to have the strength and the confidence to say NO.”