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Posted May 24, 2019

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When Elaine Corriveau’s family learned of the sudden death of a young family member, volunteers from Maine Behavioral Healthcare’s Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) were called in to offer emotional first-aid to the grieving group.

“This helps free up the medical staff or first responders to focus on the patients, so they don’t have to worry that a family is left without anyone to care for them,” explains Elaine.

After that experience, Elaine was moved to volunteer for TIP herself.

A 13-year employee of WEX who today serves as a team leader of new hire training for customer service, Elaine gave back through TIP of Portland, Maine. TIP partners with a range of first responder teams nationwide to deliver on-site emotional and practical support to survivors of traumatic events and their families in the minutes and hours that follow.

After extensive training and background checks, TIP volunteers are on a probationary period during which they receive significant additional support from the organization. Once they’re trained, TIP volunteers might receive a call to go, for example, to the home of an elderly woman who has been suddenly faced with the death of her spouse, or to a family that has lost its home to a fire.

“TIP has never missed a call,” says Elaine. “If they receive a call for assistance, they’ve never said, ‘No, we can’t show up.’ And this is all accomplished through volunteers.”

Smaller grants made through the WEX Giving Committee

For two-and-a-half years, Elaine was among these volunteers. It was also Elaine who brought WEX into the fold as a Gold Heart Sponsor of TIP’s Heroes with Hearts fundraising program for the past two years. WEX offers such smaller grants through our volunteer-based Giving Committee. The committee reviews smaller-dollar requests, usually under $2,500, submitted by WEX employees on behalf of a charity they’re involved in.

To create the time needed to volunteer the three 12-hour shifts a month, Elaine also took advantage of WEX’s Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program, which offers every employee 16 hours of paid time off each year, specifically to give back to their community. 

“It has definitely taught me gratitude, because I saw how in the blink of an eye, somebody’s whole world can change,” says Elaine. “I truly believe that WEX cares about their employees; they care about their customers; and they care about their community, and they live it every day.”

“Emotional support when they’ve just experienced the worst day of their life”

During her years as a TIP volunteer, Elaine was most often called to Maine Medical’s trauma or intensive care units to support families arriving with patients experiencing a medical emergency or trauma. She was also frequently called by first responders and communities around greater Portland who were delivering a death notification to a family member or responding to a crisis.

“Sometimes it’s just about offering basic support,” says Elaine. “Maybe get them water. If they’re outside, make sure they’re not in the sun. If it’s in their home, make sure they remember to take any medications. So much of it is just about being there and not always trying to fix things. You don’t have to worry about saying the wrong or right thing. Sometimes you don’t say anything at all. Most of the time, that’s what people need: somebody to simply be there, holding hands, passing tissues, providing emotional support when they have experienced probably the worst day of their life. You learn how to care for them, but then also how to step away when family members and friends come and rally.”

Maine Behavioral Health’s next TIP training will be at the end of October.

Readers who are interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact Program Manager Leslie Skillin at 207-661-6478 or skilll@mainebehavioralhealthcare.org.

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