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Volunteer Vacation: Two Sisters Hit the Road to Serve Others in Each of the 50 States

In July 2016, Lindsey and Lee Ellen Fulmer  spent a year visiting every state in America, volunteering at a local nonprofits along the way. They set out to inspire other people but along the way found themselves inspired.

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I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression for more than 20 years. I’ve even called suicide prevention lines for help. During one incident two years ago, I didn’t want anyone in my family to hear me say I was considering harming myself. So I turned to the Crisis Text Line.

The Crisis Text Line was founded by Nancy Lublin in 2013, when she was the CEO of Do Something, an organization that gets young people involved in their communities. It sent mass texts about volunteer opportunities, and teens sometimes replied, asking for advice. Nancy realized some people—like the hearing impaired and victims of domestic violence—might be more comfortable and safer texting than calling for help.

Crisis Text Line volunteers get 30 hours of training before answering messages. Supervisors have a master’s in a relevant field or crisis intervention experience. If someone is in need of immediate help, the counselors reach out to emergency departments after helping the texter make a safety plan.

I sent a text to 741741 and explained what was wrong. The crisis counselor was patient and asked great questions. By the end of the conversation, she’d given me suggestions that I still use. I’m grateful this modern way to get help exists.

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Lindsey and Lee Ellen (right) in Minnesota

1 of 6 Minnesota

Though Lindsey Fulmer was enthusiastic about the cross-country trip from the start, her sister Lee Ellen (right) was skeptical (and felt homesick) until the pastor at the church attended by their host family in Minnesota offered the following bit of thought-provoking wisdom: “In life, you have a choice: You can choose peace, or you can choose panic.” Lee Ellen decided to choose peace and thereafter saw evidence of God everywhere—with a little help from her sister.

Shiloh Home of Hope in Kansas.

2 of 6 Kansas

Lindsey cleans the windows of the Shiloh Home of Hope in Emporia, Kansas. Shiloh Home of Hope is a non-denominational residential ministry for women and children. Those who are facing crisis can escape to this safe space of peace and positivity for themselves. The Shiloh Home’s comforting environment and  encouraging culture of support can help its residents get their lives back on track.

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Lindsey working on Red Barn Farms with a Labrador.

3 of 6 Utah

With the assistance of a helpful Labrador retriever, Lindsey works in the garden at Red Barn Farms. A nonprofit community farm and rehabilitation center for those with substance abuse issues, founded on the belief that “if students are brought back to their roots, new growth begins.” Red Barn Farms provided a great opportunity for the sisters to learn more about an aspect of the human experience they were unfamiliar with, gaining perspective and knowledge that will serve them in their own lives.

Sandy and the Fulmer sisters

4 of 6 South Dakota

Taking a selfie break with Sandy, the Executive Director of the Teddy Bear Den in South Dakota. The Teddy Bear Den is an incentive and education-based program for pregnant women on a limited income and their children. 

Lindsey chips in to help with a clothing drive in North Carolina.

5 of 6 North Carolina

Lindsey chips in to help with a clothing drive in North Carolina. “I’m learning to slow down and see how I can use my talents to help others in the long term,” she said. The sisters are currently working on a book about their journey and hope their volunteering experiences inspire others to serve in their own communities.

Lindsey and Lee Ellen with members of Anchorage: reMADE

6 of 6 Alaska

The sisters land in Alaska to help out at Anchorage: reMADE, where volunteers assist a group of artists in repurposing items to help empower people to create positive change their lives. In 2017, they partnered with over 30 organizations and agencies to make that happen. Lindsey and Lee Ellen are seen here with members of the organization.

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