Trauma Intervention Program welcomes 17 new volunteers into its O.C. family

By Greg Hardesty

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.

TIP (Trauma Intervention Program) of Orange County held its graduation for 17 new volunteers at Orange County Fire Authority headquarters on Aug. 7. Gathered with support staff are, front row from left: Louie Ayala, San Clemente Chief of Police Services Lt. Mike Peters of the OCSD, June Casey, Sara McKenna, Nari Yoon and Joy Tiongson. Back row from left are Jody Milbern, Margie Meyers, John Buselt, Jeff Lacarre, Michelle Katzman, Linda Knisely, Bill Lowrey, Mary Ellen Lowrey, Debra Roberts, Lynne Saks, Stephen Williams, Mary Wong and volunteer trainers Margie McInnis and Heather Sergeant.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Lt. Mike Peters, the Orange County Sheriff Department’s chief of police services for San Clemente, addresses those attending the TIP (Trauma Intervention Program) graduation at Orange County Fire Authority headquarters on Monday, Aug. 7.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“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.

Graduates, family and friends at the Trauma Intervention Program of Orange County graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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:

Jody Milbern, left (black shirt), and Debra Roberts receive hugs during TIP’s graduation. Hugging them are, from left, Heather Sergeant and Margie McInnis.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Louie Ayala

John Buselt

June Casey

Michelle Katzman

Linda Knisely

Jeff Lacarre

Bill Lowrey

MaryEllen Lowrey

Sara McKenna

Margie Meyers

Jody Milbern

Debra Roberts

Lynne Saks

Joy Tiongson

Stephen Williams

Mary Wong

Nari Yoon

Graduates, family and friends applaud at the TIP (Trauma Intervention Program) of Orange County graduation ceremony at Orange County Fire Authority headquarters in Irvine.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Lt. Mike Peters, Orange County Sheriff Department’s chief of police services for San Clemente, addresses those at the graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.”

Bill Lowrey gets a hug from TIP trainer Heather Sergeant as he receives his certificate and new name badge during the graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Kristi Hoffstetter Batiste, who along with Mindy Daffron is a TIP crisis team manager, addresses attendees at the graduation ceremony on Aug. 7. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“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.

Lynne Saks gets a hug from TIP Crisis Team Manager Mindy Daffron.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

For information about becoming a TIP volunteer, click here. To learn how to intervene during a crisis, you can use these resources. Editors note: Hardesty is a TIP volunteer.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Linda Knisely, right, receives a certificate and new name badge during TIP’s graduation from trainer Margie McInnis.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Mary Wong, community relations manager for TIP, gets a hug from Crisis Team Manager Mindy Daffron during TIP’s graduation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

June Casey, right, receives her certificate and new name badge during TIP’s graduation from trainers Heather Sergeant (left) and Margie McInnis.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Mary Ellen Lowrey gets a hug from Brayden Batiste as she receives her certificate and new name badge during TIP’s graduation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC