Lisel Petis: Have you discovered your two hands? |

Lisel Petis: Have you discovered your two hands?

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from a poem by Sam Levenson, where he says, “Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

This is my request to you, to see if you have discovered both of your hands and to see if you are ready to take that step to help others.

The first time I volunteered in earnest was in college. My senior year, I participated in a class that required each student to find a local nonprofit agency to volunteer for the semester. I chose to volunteer as a crisis line advocate for the Boulder County Safehouse, now known as Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, a domestic violence agency. I have to be honest, when I signed up, I was nervous.

Did I have the time and energy to actually participate in overnight crisis line calls? Would I be any good at helping the people who were in crisis? Could I even make the commitment to the 30 hours of required training to start?

Although those questions remained unanswered when I started the training that fall, after that first day volunteering, I never thought about those questions again. My domestic violence and crisis line training were inspiring enough that I knew I had made the right decision.

The training alone broadened my horizons to have a better understanding of people different than myself, my community as a whole and concepts that had previously seemed foreign to me. There were some long nights with multiple crisis line calls — although, those were infrequent — and there were times that I questioned whether I was sufficiently helping the crisis line caller.

But ultimately, this volunteer opportunity enriched my life. It made me feel like I was making a difference in the world, even if it was only through one person at a time.

My experiences for the Boulder Safehouse were so impactful that after college, I went on to volunteer as a crisis line advocate for multiple other agencies — Safehouse Denver, the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program, now the Blue Bench, and Advocate Safehouse Project. Every training, every call and every experience has been just as rewarding as the first.

Advocates Building Peaceful Communities provides immediate crisis services, residential shelter, advocacy and community awareness for victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence and stalking in Routt County. In 2017, Advocates received 210 domestic violence and 26 sexual assault crisis line calls.

Crisis line volunteers are critical to our agency to sufficiently provide information and support to victims and their families in Routt County. So this is my call out to you: Will you join Advocates as a crisis line volunteer?

Advocates will host its next volunteer training this August, and we would love to fill the class with new volunteers. This is a chance to enrich both your own life as well as the lives of others. You can contact Marnie Christensen at or 970-879-2034 if you would like further information or would like to sign up for our next training. Or feel free to contact me to chat about my experience as a crisis line volunteer or to learn more about Advocates at

I’d love to chat over a cup of coffee and tell you the story about how I discovered my other hand.

Lisel Petis

Advocates Building Peaceful Communities executive director

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