Grace Johnson Volunteer Award Recipient Samaritans

2022 Grace Johnson Volunteer Award Recipient Samaritans

Jane Quercia, Volunteer Grief Support Services Facilitator, Samaritans

Jane Quercia, currently Samaritans’ Grief Support Services Facilitator, has been a Samaritans volunteer since 1988, the year after she lost a brother and close friend to suicide. While driving to the Cape, she saw a billboard about Samaritans and decided to try volunteering. For the past 34 years, Jane has continued her volunteerism with Samaritans, playing an important role in the Grief Support Services programs. However, Jane’s impact spans across all of Samaritans programs. She began on the Helpline for about five years, and then served as the Helpline ‘Home Leader’ for another seven years. The Home Leader is the volunteer on call when there is an emergency. When Samaritans took over SafePlace Grief Support Services from Catholic Charities about 27+ years ago, Jane was one of the first volunteers to help support this work. SafePlace groups bring together those left behind by suicide loss with volunteers who have been through similar experiences. About 10 years ago, Samaritans grew the Grief Support Services program by adding Survivor-to-Survivor Network (SSN) visits. These are home visits by two volunteers who visit a suicide loss survivor or the family of a loss survivor in their home. Some survivors prefer groups like SafePlace, while others prefer meeting individually through SSN. Jane continues to facilitate a weekly SafePlace groups.

In addition to her direct service work, Jane has been involved with Samaritans’ 5k Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention since it began. She started ‘Tommy’s Team’ for her family to join and participate in Samaritans’ mission. Every year anywhere from 2 to 12 family members join her in the 5k Run/Walk. Jane was also a valuable member of the Samaritans Board of Directors for 16 years and is an active participant and organizer of the Annual Memorial Event.

Jane says, “Suicide loss is like no other. There is so much more baggage, guilt, and anger among those left behind.”  She continues, “Everyone’s journey is different, but there are similarities. We can tell people that they are not going crazy. When they can’t sleep, are crying every day, can’t look at pictures – or maybe they are obsessed with looking at pictures – we have been there. We are able to tell people that there is no one size fits all. We help people with the feelings of ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ and help them to process their ‘why’ questions.”

A volunteer with lived experience can truly have an impact and amazing SafePlace and SSN visits help survivors to know that it is ok to do what is right for them and reassure them at some point the feelings may change and they may be able to let go of their questions over time.

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