Crisis line volunteer, Shane Stronach, at the Nexen booth in our contact centre.

Shane Stronach had been looking for a long-term volunteer opportunity for a while when he came across Distress Centre. Having experienced his own crisis several years ago, he felt volunteering on our crisis lines could be a good opportunity to help out other people in need of support. He began training in February 2016 and has been answering calls and chats in our contact centre for over a year.

Shane is a petroleum engineer by trade and has been working in the oil and gas sector for 15 years. He currently works as an internal auditor at Nexen, a Distress Centre Community Partner.

Q&A with Shane

Q: How has your volunteer experience been so far?

Shane: Honestly, incredible. The training that Distress Centre puts you through really sets you up well in terms of putting you in a good spot to succeed when you eventually get on the lines by yourself. It’s been so good that I’ve felt like I’ve gotten more out of it than I’ve even given in. It really is a unique volunteer opportunity.

Q: Do you have any stand-out memories from volunteering that you could share?

Shane: You’re trying to help people through really incredibly stressful times, and so in terms of great memories, it’s just people phoning in when they’re at their most vulnerable and looking for someone to talk to and just really lending an ear at that critical time. It’s happened so many times that it’s hard to pinpoint one, or ten or twenty [calls]. Just knowing that every time I come in and do a shift, that I’m going to help someone out, it always feels good.

Q: What drew you to a volunteer position that is so different from your education and line of work?

Shane: Having gone through an engineering degree, and having worked in corporate life for a long time, I haven’t had a lot of exposure to social work or social issues or social justice causes, so this was just a moment of growth for me. And it’s been great thus far. It’s actually helped with my understanding of social issues that we should be concerned about. So I’m carrying it beyond this work into other aspect of my life as well. Just because someone is an engineer, doesn’t mean they have to be defined by it.

Q: Do you find what you’ve learned has translated to your job at all?

Shane: It’s translated into all of my interactions. The training – learning about how to empathize, active listening – all these skills that you learn in a classroom and eventually practice on the lines, it’s impacted all of my situations in terms of at work, at home, through friends, everybody. I think it’s had an impact everywhere.

Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering at DC?

Shane: If anyone is looking for something that they really want to sink their teeth into for a bit and really get something out of it, with a lot of flexibility, [then] I don’t know of a better opportunity than volunteering here. The training is great, the support is great, the way they have it set up in the contact centre in terms of when high risk situations happen, the support you can get immediately after or with you mentor after is great. There’s never been a situation where I’ve felt like, ‘Oh this is too much, I can’t handle it,’ because of the training, because of the support, because of the people who work here. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better volunteer opportunity in Calgary.

Maximizing his giving

Nexen has several programs that encourage their employees to give back. They match employee donations up to $20,000 and give employees time off to volunteer during the year, to name a few. Nexen employees who volunteer can also apply for a grant to be paid to that organization. After volunteering 40 hours at Distress Centre, Shane applied for this grant and Nexen made a $1000 donation on his behalf. When Shane volunteers another 40 hours in 2017, Nexen will donate another $1000.

Q: Did this program encourage you to volunteer?

Shane: I came to volunteer simply because I wanted to, but certainly the idea that Nexen would help support that, knowing that they promote volunteering, I think that helps [encourage] people to volunteer. I think it’s a great incentive, it shows that you’re working for a company that cares. They’re trying to give back to the community in many ways, whether it be through [the] United Way [campaign] or by encouraging you to volunteer, or whether it be giving $1000 if you end up working the 40 hours with a specific charity. It means that work is more than just work. I think that element of being involved in the community should be encouraged by every company.

Please note: Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Support from Nexen

Distress Centre is fortunate to have the ongoing support of Nexen. In 2014 Nexen demonstrated their commitment to volunteerism through their donation of $225,000 over three years to fund Distress Centre’s volunteer program. In 2017 they donated $75,000 to continue their support for volunteers like Shane. Nexen has also provided a summer student through their not-for-profit summer student program for Distress Centre’s Fund Development and Communications team in the summer of 2015, 2016 and now in 2017.

From left to right: Tanya Bilotta, Analyst, External Relations Planning & Community Investment at Nexen, Jerilyn Dressler, Director of Operations at Distress Centre, Andrea Bosnjak, Manager, External Relations Planning & Community Investment at Nexen, and Brian Bench, VP & Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Nexen.

Angela Danko assisted Distress Centre in 2015 and helped with a variety of initiatives related to fund raising, stewardship and communications. Claris Kabasu joined Distress Centre in 2016 and said she found a “greater appreciation for the work that is required in the social services sector. Distress Centre has taught me that any support that is given can and does have a great impact on someone’s life. I am thankful to have been given this opportunity from Nexen.”

We are excited and grateful to have the support of a Nexen summer student again this year and thankful to Nexen for everything they have done to support our agency.