Volunteer of the Year: Maria Saracho says donating her time is 'a calling'

Helping the helpless just seems to be in Maria Saracho's blood.Not only does she work full-time for Children's Protective Services, but she volunteers more than 30 hours a week manning the Big Spring Victim Services hotline. And she has done such an outstanding job at that she was named Program Volunteer of the Year by the Texas Association for Sexual Assault.Saracho, has volunteered her services to Victim Services for almost 10 years and has logged more than 5,900 hours for the agency.“Maria is the volunteer who everyone wants,” Victim Services' Linda Calvio stated in a letter nominating Saracho for the award. “She is an outstanding advocate to survivors of sexual assault, knows her business and how to take care of people. During her nine years of volunteering, her eagerness and continued dedication has never stopped.”Calvio went on to say that what makes Saracho so special is the empathy she shows to assault victims.“She is an advocate you want to talk to and to be by your side during the middle of the night,” Calvio stated. “Each survivor she works with is unique and special to her. Her love of people is truly genuine and her big heart and smile tells it all.”Saracho, who is an administrative technician at CPS when she's not volunteering at Victim Services, said she felt compelled to offer her efforts to the agency.“It was a calling,” she said. “I saw an an ad for volunteers in the newspaper and it seems like every time I turned on the radio, I head the same thing. All that happened within the space of a week. I definitely felt it was a calling, so I applied.”When dealing with assault victims, Saracho said she tries to put herself in their shoes.“You have to have empathy for the person,” she said. “They're victims until proven otherwise. You can't say they were asking for it, or why were they dressed that way or anything like that. You have to have empathy for the person then and there.”Saracho works three 12-hour shifts a week, usually Fridays through Sundays, but doesn't mind the extra workload on top of her paying job and caring for her family.“I try to do as much as I can,” she said. “The (full-time) staff deals with this six to seven days a week, so if I can spell them a bit, I will.”