'We need to stop focusing on our lives'
A teenager faces a grim adult reality but knows she is doing something to help.
By RITA FARLOW
Published April 8, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - National Volunteer Week begins next Sunday and falls in the middle of Florida Volunteer Month, which means a month of honoring those who give their time to help others.
Locally, the United Way of Tampa Bay will celebrate volunteers on April 17.
Tyssa Garner, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School, has been nominated for a youth award for her devotion to CASA in St. Petersburg. Garner, 17, spends two afternoons a week volunteering at Community Action Stops Abuse, a nonprofit group that provides services to victims of domestic violence. She is the daughter of Valerie Kimball and Stewart Garner of St. Petersburg.
We caught up with Tyssa, who is busy studying for exams, to talk to her about volunteering.
What does your work at CASA entail?
For the most part, I volunteer in the outreach/legal department. I read police reports sent to CASA and label them for statistics. Then I address letters to each victim of domestic violence to let them know what is available to support them at CASA. Reports come in exactly how they were formatted at the Police Department and include persons involved, a narrative of what happened, and what's being done to follow up on this. The reports have to be read for statistics for the county, how many felonies and misdemeanors, arrests and nonarrests, reports sent to the state attorneys, if the elderly, children, or drugs or alcohol were involved.
In your opinion, how does domestic violence affect the community at large?
No one deserves to grow up in or live in a home that has domestic violence. ... Violence, in general, from someone you don't know is hard to deal with, but violence from someone you love has got to be a million times worse.
Domestic violence destroys the community. It may seem like there's no problem, but deep down, a community in which home isn't safe is not a community at all.
Tell us about the women you've met at CASA.
I am immensely proud of the women who get help at CASA. They're doing something to help themselves.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned through volunteering?
I've learned that there's always something extra that you can do to help someone that goes beyond what you're asked to do.
What's the best part about your work?
Just knowing that I'm helping someone.
The worst part?
The worst part is definitely getting reports from the same victim over and over and seeing that the suspect is never arrested.
I feel like I know one woman from the reports. Even when the Police Department doesn't list that she has children, I've seen her name and her story so many times that I know that she has children. I even know their names. It just brings me down to know that she's not (getting help) or can't. Some women have the most horrifying stories, and that's hard to hear sometimes.
Why is volunteering important?
If no one volunteered and helped, the community wouldn't change. If I had a choice between helping and not, I'd help, hands down. The question is, why wouldn't I want to help a community that I'm part of?
What is one thing we all could do to make the world a better place?
We all could take some of our free time and volunteer in our community and neighborhoods. We need to stop focusing on our lives and do something to help out someone else.
We all have the moral obligation to make the world a better place so that future generations can succeed where we have failed.
The United Way of Tampa Bay's annual Volunteer of the Year Recognition Luncheon will be held April 17 at the Tampa Westshore Doubletree Hotel. Volunteers in 10 categories will be recognized for their contributions to the Tampa Bay community.
[Last modified April 7, 2007, 22:38:01]
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