Hannah Timmerwoodz says she always knew she was destined to be a teacher.
“My family likes to tell the story that after the first day of kindergarten, I came home and announced that I was going to be a teacher,” Hannah says. “And my kindergarten teacher – who I still talk with to this day – tells a matching story. She says I was always her assistant in class. I wanted to teach everyone. I love kids. I love that I can be a safe person for them and a champion for them.”
Hannah fulfilled her dream of becoming an elementary special education teacher, but she also discovered in her first year of high school that her desire to be a safe person and champion for others made her equally passionate about suicide prevention work.
“I had so many friends and family members who have struggled in serious ways with mental illness, and I had an immediate family member who attempted to take their life. When that happened, I felt like I had missed signs,” she explains. “I had been looking for ways to show up for the people in my life. So, when Samaritans came to my first year Health & Wellness Class, the mission spoke to me. I felt like I could be and do more with Samaritans.”
Now 25 years old and nearly 10 years later, Hannah has done so much more to serve the mission of Samaritans. She has grown in her responsibility and impact over the years, and we had the chance to sit down with her to learn more about her journey with Samaritans.
How do you think your friends and family describe you?
I think they would say I’m a good listener and an empathetic person, and I’m really driven. I had a teacher tell me once, “Hannah, you feel everything that others feel.” I just like to be there for people.
What do you remember about when you first applied to be a Helpline volunteer?
I remember going into the Boston Office for a meeting, and the meeting ended with me being interviewed by Jeremiah Mankin (now Director, Text Services). I remember every word of my interview with Jeremiah. I remember how passionate and emotional I was about this work from that first night. And I remember the day that I received my official Befriender Certificate in April 2014 – on my 16½ birthday.
Can you tell us about all the roles you’ve served in at Samaritans?
I wrote it down so that I could remember it all (laughing). I started working my weekly Helpline shift in 2014, and about a year into doing that I became a mentor – which means I was paired with new trainees to listen in on their calls and provide feedback. In September 2016, I became a home leader, which means I supported the volunteers during shifts by providing them with resources or talking with them after hard calls. In September 2020, Samaritans invited me to apply to a paid role as a helpline coordinator, where I began to help organize overnight and weekend volunteer schedules. Then in June 2022, I was invited to apply for the role of shift supervisor. I monitor the calls and tech platforms. I answer emails and do silent monitoring and quality assurance. And in the fall of 2022, I began to get more involved with supporting the training team.
Why have you decided to stay so involved in Samaritans through all these years?
I am as passionate about Samaritans as I am about teaching. I have stayed committed because it is work that I believe is critical and vital. If you go through our training, you will see that it is something that so many people are capable of doing. It’s all about active listening. So many people would benefit from having this skill in all of their relationships.
What is it like to volunteer and work at Samaritans?
It is extremely rewarding. Of course the content of the calls can be really emotional. But you learn so much about yourself, about other people, about the world. And you realize that there is a huge community of us (Helpline volunteers). We all support each other and care for each other. We lift each other up.
How do you feel you have grown as a result of Samaritans?
I don’t know that I could show up in all the ways that I show up in the different areas of my life if it weren’t for the ongoing work I do with Samaritans. I can hear different perspectives. I am the person that a lot of people in my life call late at night when something is wrong. I love to be that person – both in my work and in my own life. I wouldn’t be able to be that person today if it weren’t for this work.
If others are considering getting involved with Samaritans, what would you tell them?
Do it. There are so many ways to be involved – whatever your comfort level is. There is a place for you here. I don’t think that 16½ -year-old Hannah would have ever imagined leading training and supporting other shift volunteers when she started. You grow and you learn here. Everyone is rooting for each other’s success on this team.
What do you wish the world knew about Samaritans?
There is so much behind each one of us who is answering the phone. We care just as much as every person that we talk to.
Become a Volunteer
There are so many ways to get involved with Samaritans. If you would like to become a Helpline volunteer, sign up now.