DRC thanks volunteers for busiest year ever

 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
Three local women say that volunteering as mediators at Washtenaw County’s Dispute Resolution Center is one of the best decisions they’ve made.
“I do it because I get to work with wonderful people and I’m helping the community,” said Ypsilanti resident Jan Whitehead, one of the DRC’s three Volunteers of the Year who were honored at a recent reception held for all volunteer mediators.
Executive Director Belinda Dulin said even she was surprised to learn that during the past year, 94 of the 100 listed volunteers have actively supported the DRC. That’s up from past year’s 55 active volunteers.
Volunteer mediators help students, family members, landlord/tenants, merchants, employees and others resolve their issues without going to court.
So far this year, mediators have worked on about 600 cases serving more than 1400 people.
“I think that’s why the courts—especially small claims court —they love us,” said Dulin.
Barbara Adams of Ann Arbor became a volunteer mediator about a year ago, 
“I’ve had a great time doing it,” said Adams, who recently retired as a pediatric rheumatologist at the University of Michigan. “I think it’s a wonderful experience. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about life and the way people live, and about the ways we can help them. I always come out of a mediation—if it has gone well—feeling as if all is really right with the world.”
Phyllis Herzig first heard about the DRC during a group presentation. 
“As a geriatric social worker, I thought, `This is really what I want to do once I stop working,’” she said. 
After retiring in 2007, she was trained to be a mediator the next year and has been doing it ever since.
She’s also had extra training to work with schools and adult guardianship and eldercare.
“For a long time, I thought, `If you could just put the people in a room together, they’d understand each other and it would solve the problem,’” she said. “Well, it’s just not that easy. But when it happens, it’s very satisfying.”
About once a week, Herzig mediates a small claims court or general civil court cases.
“It’s a challenge to find the right words to help people reach some new ways of looking at problems and reaching a solution,” she said. “It really feels good contributing to society and helping others individually. I get a sense of satisfaction from it.”

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