BRENDA SCHROEDER/Independent reporter
It was a simple thank you that had Gail Kunstman picking up the phone and calling Pat Hamilton with Heartland Victim Services. Gail was reading the Stettler Independent and there was a notice of thanks to the HVS from someone who had lost a spouse. Thinking “What an awesome thing it would be if you could someone out during such a terrible time,” Gail decided to find out if she could be involved. 8 years later – Gail is still responding to calls for help and providing support.
As an advocate for Heartland Victim Services – Gail is on the front line with the police, ambulance and fire services. Whenever there may be a ‘victim’ – advocates respond: traffic accidents, domestic violence, sexual abuse, fires, including going with the police to families when news of an accident or death must be delivered. Gail points out that while their role is also providing referrals to the correct community agencies – “emotional support is 100% of what we do.”
She often hears “that’s wonderful but I couldn’t do that” however Gail didn’t think she would be able to either. “It’s all about common sense and compassion. We are not counselling or influencing, we are supporting people.”
Many advocates are working full time and unable to be available during work hours. Gail realizes she was fortunate that when they ran their own business, she could set her own hours. Now that she’s retired, her time is even more dedicated to the community. They travel a bit – visiting her son and his family in Houston – but she doesn’t feel the need to get a way. “We each have a week a month where we are on call 24/7. But I’d happily cover for others and take more time if needed.”
Gail’s response to that small note in the paper made her see what a needed and worthwhile service that HVS provides and she can’t imagine what a person would do without that kind of support when dealing with any kind of trauma. Providing support to others brings its rewards back to Gail in the simplest of forms “I still have people, 6 years later, who hug me on the street and thank me for the help I could provide.”