Danielle Gatto Hirano (also known as our “Jane of All Trades” volunteer) has volunteered as a LifeLine counselor at WIT for over two years. She provides telephone counseling to people who call our LifeLine for support around domestic violence and/or substance abuse.
Though she will never meet her callers face-to-face, she knows that her words have an impact in their lives. "I had a caller who called me back the following week," Danielle said. "She said that I had been very helpful and she had called back to ask for more information. It felt very rewarding to know that someone was being helped."
In order to become a LifeLine counselor, Danielle completed WIT's 40-hour Domestic Violence Advocate Training. She sat in on LifeLine calls with WIT staff, and then took calls herself while a counselor observed and gave her feedback.
Initially, Danielle said, she felt that the stakes were high with each call - that these callers were dependent on her to provide them with all the help they needed. But WIT counselors assured her that that wasn't her responsibility, or even a reasonable expectation to have for herself.
"The road doesn't start and end with me," Danielle said. "I am hopefully a stepping stone."
Nevertheless, she shared that it is extremely difficult “when a client is in need of a resource that is not available at that time. That can be heartbreaking and frustrating.”
But there are also light-hearted moments, and even laughter.
“The most surprising thing to me about taking calls on the LifeLine is that we laugh sometimes! Sometimes we reach a level of comfort with each other where we even wind up having a few inside jokes together by the end of the conversation.”
She stressed the importance of self-care in this line of work. “I step out of my room when I feel I need a break. The [WIT] staff is really friendly, and they help me unwind!”
Giving back through the LifeLine
Danielle first started volunteering in her teens, and since then, volunteering has been an integral part of her life. When she moved to Philadelphia a few years ago, she was busy settling down, working, and developing new hobbies. But as time passed, she realized that she had more to give back to the community.
“I was specifically looking for a cause in which I might have some kind of experience or skill to contribute. While my work history does not appear to be directly related, one of my skills that I value most is being a non-judgmental listener. I wasn’t always that way, but twelve years of bartending will do that to you!
“I think that a lot of people who are in a domestic violence and/or substance abuse situation don’t often get to have a non-judgmental listener to turn to. I wanted to try to provide that kind of support because I’ve seen how valuable and necessary it can be.
“I would tell someone who is thinking about volunteering as a LifeLine counselor at WIT that there are definitely people who need you. You don’t have to have a master’s degree or be an expert in the field in order to provide support and assistance to people who need it. You just have to have the desire, be willing to learn the skills, and have an open heart and mind.”
Jane of All Trades
At WIT, Danielle is known as our “Jane of All Trades” volunteer; in addition to her scheduled LifeLine shifts, Danielle also takes the time to represent us at community outreach events with information about our services, domestic violence, and substance abuse. On top of that, she is trained in our WAVE Empowerment Self-Defense, and volunteers with us as an assistant WAVE instructor.
In her life outside of WIT, Danielle works as a bartender and bar manager, does freelance video and installation art, and trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.