The .00003 percent.
That’s the percentage of Orange County residents who serve as volunteers with Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) Orange County, a non-profit whose 100-some trained volunteers work with police, fire departments and hospitals to provide emotional and practical support to people immediately after a tragedy.
It’s a special calling that, over the years, has been embraced by most O.C. law enforcement and fire service agencies, as well as hospitals, as a tool to help them better do their job of serving the public.
On Monday, Aug. 7, TIP welcomed 17 new graduates to the program after each completed 55 hours of classroom training, three months of field training, a mentorship program and background checks.
“It takes a lot to be a TIP volunteer,” TIP OC Crisis Team Manager Kristi Hofstetter Batiste told the room full of graduates, many accompanied by friends and family members, at the ceremony at Orange County Fire Authority headquarters in Irvine.
“It takes a ton of time, but it also takes a lot from family members,” Hofstetter Batiste said. “You allow us to sacrifice dinners, let us run out of the door in the middle of the night, and you allow us to give our time to the Orange County community.”
Each TIP volunteer is on call three 12-hour shifts a month, and is tasked with responding to crisis scenes within 20 minutes after getting a call from a TIP dispatcher.
Police agencies, fire departments and hospitals call TIP to request volunteers to come to scenes ranging from suicides, fatal traffic accidents, deaths in homes — daily disasters that usually never make the news.
The volunteers serve as “emotional paramedics” to help the traumatized with practical matters and give them a shoulder to cry on so they can begin the healing process a little bit faster if left alone or unassisted.
The 17 TIP volunteers who graduated Aug. 7 were:
Their classroom trainers, Margie McInnis and Heather Sergeant, got much applause, and guest speaker Lt. Mike Peters of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department told an emotional story about how he experienced first hand the benefits of TIP.
Peters, chief of police services for San Clemente, recently lost his sister. Two TIP volunteers responded to the death scene and were of particular help to Peters’ brother.
“You folks did a phenomenal job in a really, really hard situation,” said Peters, who got choked up at times.
He quoted something commonly attributed to William Shakespeare as part of his message of thanks and appreciation:
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
“You guys have the gift of empathy and compassion,” Peters said. “I couldn’t be more proud as a first responder having your group (work with) us.”
TIP was founded in Oceanside 32 years ago by mental health professional Wayne Fortin, and is celebrating its 22nd year in Orange County. The organization now has 15 affiliates serving over 250 cities nationwide.
“I’ll take credit for a good idea…but you decided to do it,” Fortin told the graduates and other TIP volunteers Monday evening. “And that’s what I really love about TIP volunteers. You’re not just thinking about compassion, or reading about compassion — you’re putting compassion into action.”
State Farm has been a major supporter of TIP for the last five years. Ken LaTourette, a State Farm agent in Tustin, praised the organization for what it does.
“TIP reminds us that even in our darkest moments we are not alone, and their volunteers show us the strength that we can gain when we learn about crisis,” LaTourette said in a statement.
“At State Farm, we are incredibly proud to support their work and feel that their mission is in alignment with ours: to help life go right and recover from the unexpected,” LaTourette said.
Fortin gave three pieces of advice to the 17 graduates:
— Schedule TIP around your family and friends.
— Stay competent. “The more you know what you’re doing out there, the less stressful it will be,” Fortin said.
— Remember what the focus of TIP is all about: helping its clients.