Trauma Intervention Program Volunteers

August 7, 2008 8:14:14 PM PDT
Whenever an ambulance is dispatched in Fresno, the fire department is called or a frantic call comes into law enforcement, chances are a special group of volunteers is alerted.They're called Trauma Intervention Program Volunteers - or "TIP" volunteers.

These volunteers often put in hundreds of hours a year to make certain families get through the first few hours of an unexpected tragedy.

In the early morning hours of February 7th, the Fresno Fire Department sped off to the scene of a house fire in Calwa. Inside they found two little girls - 8-year old Ruvi and her 9-year old sister Anna. Ruvi had already died. Anna was still fighting for her life. Their mother, Sylvia, was at work at the time. When she arrived at the hospital, a stranger stepped in immediately to help.

Sylvia Escalante says, "The thing I remember, we were trying to locate my daughter Ruvi. We didn't know where they took her. She helped us locate her where she was at. I guess they had already taken her and we were really worried about that."

The unknown woman was Judy Holm, a tip volunteer. Judy says, "The main thing is to let them know you're there for them. We're volunteers. We're not associated with anyone else. We just tell them how much we care and give them a little bit of information."

Holm was there to comfort the family of Yshema Snowden in May of 2007 when the little girl drowned in a Fresno canal. She was there on Highway 99 when dozens of cars crashed into each other in dense fog last November. But Holm is just one of 25 tip volunteers who have cried with families, washed dishes, folded clothes and called the coroner through 14 years of service in Fresno.

Just this last year tip volunteers have helped over 700 Fresno area families. Yahira Garcia-Perea is another volunteer. She keeps a bag in her car so that she's ready for the next call. Garcia-Perea says, "You're always a little apprehensive. You second guess yourself. Am I going to be able to say the right things? Am I going to be able to connect with the family."

Judy Holm not only said the right words and made a connection with Sylvia Escalante, she's become a treasured friend. Escalante believes it's a great organization and she hopes others volunteer for the "TIP" program.

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