Anne Francis of Shelburne has been volunteering on the Steps to End Domestic Violence hotline for 14 years. Anne and her husband have been married for 52 years, have raised three sons, and have seven grandchildren. Anne volunteers with three other local non-profits as well, but her journey to us, how she handles hotline calls, and her advice to other potential volunteers is priceless.
How did you begin volunteering with us?
I followed a path which eventually led to my volunteering on the hotline. I answered an ad in the Burlington Free Press for volunteers at the VNA, in their Maternal Child Health Program. I volunteered with them for 5 years and then was offered a paid position, which I did for 12 years. I did home visits with clients supporting women, children, and their families who were coping with abuse and neglect - teaching them how to care for their children and trying to keep their families together. When I retired from the VNA it seemed that I could easily transfer my skills over to the (then) Women Helping Battered Women hotline.
Why do you volunteer so much?
If you rest too much you’ll rust.
What specific skills and education did you bring to the hotline?
I have a Masters in Child Development & Education from Cornell University. I taught elementary school for years, including 2nd and 3rd grades and I know how to listen.
What would you say to others thinking about volunteering for our hotline?
Try it, but it’s not for everybody. If it bothers you too much, don’t stay.
How do you handle the emotional toll of answering the hotline every week?
I have the luxury of coming in for my short shift with a positive attitude and leaving the calls at the shelter when my shift ends. If you aren't standing, you can’t hold anyone else up.
What is the hardest part of answering the hotline?
Having to tell a caller who is dealing with violence in their homes, but it’s not intimate partner violence, that we can’t help them. That is really hard. I know that this is due to funding, but it’s really hard to hear a caller’s story and then have to tell them that since what they are going through does not fit our definition of domestic violence that we can’t assist them.
What is the key to a healthy relationship and marriage that has lasted 52 years?
You must have mutual trust and respect.
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