Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Victorson

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The Volunteer Spotlight is a new, monthly segment where ACTS recognizes the outstanding service by volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty.In this Volunteer Spotlight, we are highlighting the time selflessly given by those who serve on the Crisis and Suicide Helpline. The Crisis Helpline is a free, confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day. The extensive training for those who answer these calls is 40 hours, but the wonderful thing about this program is you work directly with the lives you touch and after the initial training, you have a very flexible schedule! Last year, our Helpline staff and volunteers answered 8,200 suicide-related calls, over 11,000 Senior Link calls, and over 7,000 calls related to crisis issues. We want to acknowledge the awesome work of Mark Victorson, who is a longtime volunteer with the Suicide Helpline. In 2016, Mark gave over 836 hours of service and has...
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A Guide to Volunteering During the Holiday Season

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I want to thank you for donating your time, items and energy; what you do makes a measurable impact for both ACTS and the community.The holiday season is a wonderful time to give back; this is the season for giving and as the year ends we reflect on both the good and bad and how to do something outside ourselves. However, in general, ACTS is not open on federally observed holidays so volunteering is limited at those times.So, what can you do to volunteer?Fill out our individual  or group application. If you are interested in working with a specific program- like the Adopt A Day on holidays you must follow up with the scheduler directly and as far in advance as possible.After filling out an application, schedule yourself, your family and friends to work the days before and following the holidays at departments like the Thrift Store, Food Pantry and at events...
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Celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month?!

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“You’re celebrating Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)?” a friend asked in the midst of a flurry of activities being planned in October for DVAM.  “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”  My only answer at the time was yes of course! We are celebrating the survivors of domestic violence as well as the work going on in our community to combat the epidemic of intimate partner violence.  But his comment got me to thinking. Is celebrate really the best word to describe such a sober subject as domestic violence? The recent church shooting in Texas reminds all of us how dangerous domestic violence-related behavior can be, and how vital it is to remain alert and recognize the signs before violence escalates. Indeed, it is a life and death matter, and not to be minimized.  So, thinking it through, I did what every Millennial would do (even though I am actually a Baby Boomer) – I went to...
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#MeToo

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If you are on social media or you’ve turned in to the news this week, perhaps you've seen or heard about the hashtag that’s spreading like wildfire, #MeToo. If, like me, you are a survivor of sexual assault, it can be both empowering and triggering to see SO…MANY…PEOPLE…raising their hands and saying “it happened to me, too.” And yet, I know that there are so many others who are survivors, who are ashamed, or afraid, or pressured to keep their victimization private.I have never spoken of it myself.When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who had a horse. No one else I knew had a horse so I loved going to visit her, and we would groom and ride her horse. She had an older brother who was super cool in my eyes, mostly because he paid attention to me and made me feel special. I didn’t know...
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Best Ways to Provide Support When One of Your Volunteers Suffers a Loss

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While it can take months or even years to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, most people realize that time doesn’t pause during that period. Life and responsibilities go on and require attention. While some people find returning to a regular routine helpful, it can be extremely challenging for others. This can be a tricky situation for a manager when a volunteer suffers a loss. But with a little planning, you can make the transition easier for your returning volunteer.Why It’s Hard Whether it’s working or volunteering, everyone knows that the first day back with an organization can be a bit of a challenge. Especially when one expects colleagues to react with sympathy and questions. It’s typical for people to have the same automatic, though well-intentioned, reaction of, “I’m sorry.”  They may ask how the volunteer is doing or what happened. Try to anticipate some of the...
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IWALK Festival To Enter Final Lap

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We can’t wait for Saturday’s 7th Annual IWALK for ACTS. There’s still time to register for the 5K! Following the 5K, the community at large is invited to join us for a FREE family festival from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center (14900 Potomac Town Place, Woodbridge). We will be filling the main street with activities and entertainment for the entire family. You won’t want to miss this fun, fall Saturday!We have a few vendor spots still available. Interested in partnering with us? Learn more here.Here is a look at what to expect at the festival:Minecraft activities by Animated ChildBounce House and Bounce House Slide from Castle Bounce LLC Virginia Party RentalsCharacter appearances by: McGruff the Crime Dog, Star Wars characters, Superheroes, Sparky the Fire Dog and moreMeet and Greet with Queen Elsa Science experiments with Chemistry for KidsCrafts hosted by Girls on the RunPainting by Edgemoor Art StudioFace painting by Hope Hill ChurchGagaball provided by...
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Volunteer Program Blog Introduction

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Welcome all ACTS employees, volunteers and prospects to the Volunteer Program Blog! My name is Tamika Martin, I am the Volunteer Coordinator. My job is volunteer: engagement, recruitment, placement, development, recognition and retention. This blog will feature: ACTS at events and volunteer days, recognition of excellent service from current volunteers by staff and information about programs that have immediate needs or are season specific (like Operation Turkey).With the year winding down and the weather cooling; we know the holidays are right around the corner. This is the time where collectively we think outside ourselves and give to those around us. ACTS can be a great  vehicle for you and you loved ones to make a difference in the community. Here are some of programs available for single or ongoing terms: Adopt-A-Day Program - Provide breakfast, lunch or dinner and after-school snacks for children staying at the Beverly Warren shelter.Administration - For those who seek...
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What I Have Learned My First Year As A Crisis Listener

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It is amazing to me that whoever calls and whatever time it is, there is always room for compassion, even at 3:00 a.m.  Sometimes the callers at this hour are lonely and cannot sleep, other times the caller is in emotional distress.                                              We have a diverse background for our Crisis Listener team.  Many of my coworkers have past experience with working in the mental health field, serving as an encyclopedia of knowledge and resources.  One of them in particular, who has a calm spirit and years of experience, ended up talking to me about an active suicide I took. He was able to assess the call with me and gave me hope that the caller was talking about the future, so there is a chance the caller did not end...
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Helping Seniors Deal with the Loss of a Spouse: Tackling the Paperwork and Understanding the States of Grief

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Photo Credit: vlanka, PixabayLosing a spouse is unimaginable. It’s one of the hardest things that an individual can go through in life, and watching your loved one suffer with the grief of losing his or her spouse isn’t easy either. If your senior loved one has recently become a widow or widower, your support is important. You can help with paperwork and other tasks. Your loved one will also need your support as he or she goes through each state of grief.When a person dies, there are certain tasks that must be taken care of, such as planning the funeral, contacting the insurance company, obtaining death certificates, and more. While you should offer to help, don’t try to take control of the situation. Handling the planning gives many people in grief a sense of control and a source of distraction. Instead, sit down with your loved one to figure out which...
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Remembering Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington

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I love Soundgarden, it was one of the first bands I was exposed to. My mom would blast her tape of Superunknown on the way to bringing me to school every day in her 1992 Festiva (I never really figured what the cover was supposed to be of). Chris Cornell’s voice could go from a low growl to a high crescendo in a matter of seconds without missing a beat. My mind was completely blown when he and Tom Morello teamed up when I was 11.When Chris Cornell killed himself a few months ago, it was something you couldn’t ignore. Especially after Chester Bennington killed himself a few weeks ago. It underscored how no amount of money, fame, talent, or power makes you immune from depression and mental health problems. How someone with so much success in their life could still die. Social media was quick to echo this idea, with...
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Compton & Duling Supports ACTS in its Work with Domestic Abuse Survivors

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Compton & Duling recently launched a Community Champion project in support of ACTS, which offers counseling and education for community members experiencing crisis. Through its involvement with ACTS, the Prince William-based law firm is bolstering services offered to families affected by domestic abuse.Compton & Duling Partner Maryse Allen recently did a presentation for ACTS' Adult Victim Group, helping group members to better understand the divorce process in Virginia.“While I am unable to give specific legal advice during a presentation, I can provide insight into preventing common pitfalls,” said Allen, who heads Compton & Duling’s family law practice. “Another goal is to demystify the court process. We never want anybody to feel that they are trapped in a domestic violence situation due to lack of information or resources.”Many of those in attendance had questions about their own situations. Often, Allen’s advice was to seek legal counsel. “The laws are constantly changing, and...
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Say It Out Loud!

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“Thank you for sharing your story.” “You are so brave.” “You are helping other people by letting them know that they are not alone.”These are some of the most common statements heard from people who have just listened to a survivor tell their emotional story of sexual abuse or assault. In fact, helping others is a huge reason why survivors decide to open up. However, telling your trauma story can be one of the most effective coping strategies for dealing with trauma related stress and a significant step in the healing process.With the support of a professional, shaping and sharing your story helps organize memories and feelings into a more manageable and understandable narrative. Plus, the process of creating the story is in itself beneficial.  Additionally, listeners provide much needed interaction and support with their willingness to hear what the survivor has to say. Not everyone has to tell their story...
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Self-Injury: Let’s Talk About It

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With the popularity of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix and the announcement of a second impending season, I think talking about self-injury is very relevant. It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but an important one. When we talk about “self-injury”, most people have a stereotypical image come to mind, usually the way Skye Miller talked about. However, this can be an oversimplification of the reality of self-injury. Here are some things to think about (if you aren’t already):  1. It takes a variety of forms This includes scratching, biting, burning, head banging, and cutting. These things are all done for some form of an emotional release. If you haven’t struggled with something like this yourself, odds are pretty good that you know someone who has. A 2010 study estimated that around 15% of teens engaged in some form of self-injury; this is a conservative estimate at best and is most likely higher. 2. Self-injury...
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Real Estate Team Donates $1K to Beverly Warren Shelter

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AJ Team of Keller Williams Realty, recently featured on an episode of HGTV’s popular show House Hunters, announced viewers helped raise $1,000 for ACTS Emergency Family Shelter in Dumfries, VA. Because one of the team’s Core Values is to “Be A Blessing”, they donated $1 for every social media post viewers tagged to the team’s Facebook or Instagram pages during the 22-minute live show. On July 20th, the AJ Team will present the check to shelter representatives at their office located in Lake Ridge, VA. The journey which led the AJ Team to HGTV began when CEO Allen Johnson met Makya and Delmar through a network of friends. The couple had almost given up on finding their dream home after a year-long search because they were frustrated with their previous realtor and the home-search process. Johnson convinced them to give his team a chance, and fellow AJ Team Realtor Sam Eligwe spearheaded...
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Understanding Dating Violence

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-Linda Neice, Community Educator, ACTS Domestic Violence Services“Is this really what you want? To leave me?” he shouted. “If you leave me, I will kill myself. You are so cold. How could you be so cruel to me?”  With that he left, slamming the metal front door in my face. I had no idea what he would do, and I was terrified. I was only 21. Little did I know I would hear his threats over and over again, like a horrible song on repeat.It was not always this way. Like other girls, I wanted the love story that people talk about in novels. The kind that sweeps you off your feet, complete with passionate romance and the “happily ever after.” And that is what it was like during the first year. We would go on trips together, have long meaningful conversations, he would buy me extravagant gifts, and he would tell...
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Mornings at Emergency Assistance

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Every day begins the same; wishing a “good morning” to the clients in front of the Family Services Center as we open the building, getting ready for the day, loading up the coffee maker, all before 8:30! Emergency Assistance, or “EA” as we affectionately call our home away from home, is bustling with preparation. We cross the “t’s” and dot the “i’s” of yesterday, as well as make copies and primp offices before the day gets busy, and trust me; every day is busy for us.At 9am the day begins, the door is held open and the line of clients is ushered in. Upon entry, each client gets a smile. This is very important; our clients should know we genuinely care they’re here. In too many instances, the people we serve feel forgotten. Financial hardships that deny us our basic human necessities can leave the human spirit quite broken. We respect this...
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Summer Fun Volunteering with ACTS

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At ACTS, we're always happy to host groups that serve at our warehouse through our Volunteer Program. While there, our volunteers sort the generous donations which members of our community have provided to their neighbors, mainly non-perishables and clothing.  Since February, we have been lucky enough to welcome the members of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s Social Action Committee twice a month.  They show up, rain or shine, with exuberance and excitement at the difference they are making in people’s lives through their relationship with ACTS. The 2017 goal of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Omicron Zeta Sigma Chapter’s Social Action Committee is to ensure we make a tangible, social impact within the DMV area in general, but specifically in Prince William County.In the words of Phi Beta Sigma’s Jermaine Jackson:“Our chapter’s social action volunteerism impact focus includes a partnership with Action in the Community Through Service (ACTS). ACTS provides a platform for...
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Healing for All Walks of Life

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The woman in this story was a client in our AMAC (Adults Molested As Children) support group at the PWC Adult Detention Center many moons ago.  She was a single mom whose children were living with her parents at the time.  The parents were not very supportive, however she found the support she needed from our group and co-facilitators.  Every week she would ask the facilitators for various help that she was unable to do in jail.  One day the group members laughed when again she asked for help and apologized if she was asking too much.  She turned to them and said “I am serious, this is my life”!  It was then that we knew she had a burning determination to make it and we would do whatever we could to help her. When she was released from jail, she stayed for awhile at a shelter, found a job, and began...
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Shimmy Mob Shakes for Domestic Violence Awareness

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Belly Dancers across North America and beyond have geared up during the past few weeks to make Belly Dance History once again, and all of it was for a great cause. On Saturday, May 13th, “Shimmy Mobs” appeared randomly at various locations from coast to coast to promote World Belly Dance Day and help raise funds for women's shelters.“Flash Mobs” (a group of people organized to meet to perform a specified action and then disperse quickly) are nothing new. What makes Shimmy Mob different from regular flash mobs is the three main goals. The primary goal is to promote belly dance and raise awareness of World Belly Dance Day; the secondary goal is to raise funds for local women’s and children’s shelters in participating communities; the third goal is to acknowledge and promote participating sponsors. Of course, they also aim to entertain!Shimmy Mob represents all styles of Belly Dance and the audience was...
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A Letter to Our Volunteers

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Happy National Volunteer Week! I want to express my deep appreciation for the incredible perseverance and dedication of all ACTS’ volunteers, past and present.  I have seen youth volunteers spend two hours with their friends and family sorting donated items, and I have met volunteers who have spent ten years of their lives preparing food bags in our pantry.  Just this week, Comcast Cares Day brought hundreds out to Dumfries on (a very rainy) Earth Day to work making ACTS’ buildings look better and work better so we can serve the community better. A little rain could never slow down an ACTS volunteer!!  If you have spent any amount if time in your life giving back to our community through ACTS, I want to thank you.  As the Volunteer Coordinator, I am in the enviable position of meeting people as they first come to ACTS and think about what type of volunteer opportunity...
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