Welcome to our new monthly Advocate profile, offering you a chance to get to know some of the folks who hold space and offer unconditional support on our national toll-free Talkline. This month we introduce Kelly, our longest running Talkline Advocate, who started volunteering back in 2007!
How, when and why did you first get involved with Backline?
I started volunteering in 2007 when I was new to Oregon and looking for an organization to get involved in and fill my time. I had always been a proponent of reproductive health and justice in my own and my peers’ lives but hadn’t yet been involved in a larger way. I was doing AmeriCorps at Insights Teen Parent Program in Portland at the time, and while I loved it, a lot of the clients I worked with were already parenting or came to us with their decisions already made. I wanted to be able to work with the greater spectrum of pregnancy and learn new skills to talk about options with my clients. When I found out about Backline, I thought it was so cool that something like it even existed and jumped at the chance to become involved.
What has surprised you most in your work on the Talkline?
I’ve been really surprised by what little “work” it takes to give callers what they need. When you let go of advice-giving and having the “answer,” taking on ownership of other peoples decisions/successes/failures, and having an agenda for how you think a conversation should go, then the caller is in control and you can just be present for them and whatever comes up. I realized through training and being on the line just how rare that is in most people’s lives, and I’ve found those skills to be so useful in my personal and professional worlds too.
What’s your favorite thing about being on the Talkline?
I feel so honored that people call and trust us with their stories and I never worry they’ll have a bad experience calling us. Pregnancy experiences and decisions are so personal, and people often have had really varied reactions from others when they share them. I love that I know whoever they reach on the Talkline, they’ll be met with respect, compassion, and kindness. It’s a testament to the awesome women we have on the line and the Backline community we have created.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise your Backline colleagues.
Hah! I’m usually a pretty open, often inappropriately so, book, so I really don’t know if other Talkline Advocates would be surprised by anything about me 😉
What is your favorite thing to do for fun?
My favorite thing in the world to do is to lay in the sunshine by a body of water in my bathing suit with a cold beverage and something to read and not move for hours. But in Planet Oregon where the clouds are determined to ruin my favorite past time, I really love to bake things and let my dog, Oreville, lick the beater, or jump on trampolines.
If Backline’s mission were achieved and all people had the support and resources they needed for pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption experiences, where would you volunteer your time?
I’d like to say an animal shelter, but honestly I think I would just end up adopting lots of animals and crying a lot for the ones I couldn’t have… I don’t think that would be good for my emotional or financial stability. I was really inspired by so many of the stories and organizations in the book Half The Sky by Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristoff and I’d love to do some work on international women’s and girl’s education.
Thank you Kelly for your dedication to Backline and everything you have contributed to the Talkline and the organization over the past seven years!