Janet Waite wasn't entirely sure she was suited to being a volunteer for Lifeline.
She didn't have a background in mental health or a degree in psychology but she did have a desire to give her time to a service that "resonated" with her.
The 51-year-old Albury resident, who works full-time as the chief financial officer for Zauner Construction, says as her children grew older the idea of volunteering became important to her.
"Lifeline piqued my interest because it was a 24/7 service manned by volunteers - someone to be there at any hour to speak to a person in need," Janet says.
"Yet I never joined the dots to think that was something I can do."
She went along to an information session "curious" but unsure.
One year on and Janet's experience as a crisis supporter has had a "profound" impact on how she sees the world - and herself.
"You get to a certain age and you think you're a good listener; it's part of my job to listen and solve problems," she says.
"But I have learned that you help, not by solving problems but listening and giving your time - that it's not about what I say but about creating a space for people to talk and to feel a connection."
At every point the level of training was "exceptional" - it was well-paced and thorough, Janet says.
"I cannot over-estimate the fact that by the time you get on a phone to take a call, you feel really ready and supported," she says.
And that's exactly as it should be, says Stacy Read, the manager of Albury-Wodonga Lifeline crisis support service.
Stacy joined the local service in 2012 and since 2018 her role has been in training and recruiting crisis supporters.
At Albury, she has doubled the number of trainees and is looking to attract more volunteers in 2020 with an information session at the Albury Library-Museum on Saturday, February 8 from 10am to 11am.
And now, more than ever, it appears the need for volunteers is critical.
The bushfire crisis has seen Lifeline record a 10 per cent spike in people contacting them since December 2019, with call volume spiking 14 per cent some days.
Lifeline chairman John Brogden says many of the calls have come from people living in bushfire-affected areas or from those who survived previous events.
On Thursday, the organisation welcomed the Federal Government's announcement of $1.5 million in funding for '13 HELP' - a new dedicated Lifeline phoneline for people in bushfire-affected communities.
"We know there are many people struggling and we know there are differing levels of community distress," Mr Brogden says.
"We know the loss and grief caused by the bushfires will have an impact on the mental wellbeing of many communities now and well into the future."
The Albury-Wodonga Lifeline service, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in May, is also currently looking at delivering psychological first aid to people impacted by the bushfires, according to Stacy.
In the meantime, she urges anyone interested to come to the February session.
"You don't need a degree in counselling, you just need to be empathetic and open to learning," she says.
Dan Beckwith, 34, believes often it is the people who don't believe they are capable of doing this role who are best suited to it.
The Killara resident, who spent 15 years in the army before starting his own business to provide support and training to young soldiers, knows all too well the importance of being there for someone in crisis.
"Towards the end of my (army) career, I spent time working as a mentor for soldiers being discharged for psychological illness or injury," says Dan, who has been with Albury-Wodonga Lifeline for the past year.
"At the time the army was not as good at supporting soldiers in that capacity; I felt a strong drive to gain better skills in this area."
Through Lifeline's training, Dan learned to question whether he was a good listener or compassionate - even with family.
When it comes to picking up the phone to take a call from a stranger in crisis, "absolutely everything" is important, he says.
"That person can't see us and you have to present as the right person for them to trust in their fragile, emotional state.
"All you have is your voice - they have to feel like you have all the time in the world.
"And how special is that to be the one person holding space for them?"
Janet agrees it's a "privilege" to gain such raw insights into another person's world.
"There's no doubt there are some incredibly sad calls and you can't imagine the circumstances people face," she says.
"But you have to be in the moment and focus on that call and do your best."
Stacy says it is normal to be impacted by calls; to have tears, sadness and to feel a bit vulnerable.
"We preach and we role-model self-care and Albury is lucky to have on-site supervisors who can be called on during a call or to de-brief afterwards," she says.
Janet has found her work with LIfeline so rewarding she approached Zauner with the idea of starting a Workplace Giving scheme where employees can donate small sums from their pay to train local crisis supporters.
The plan is to roll that out across the Border.
Janet says Lifeline has given her more than she could give back:
"You go in thinking you want to help but really you change through the process.
"It's profoundly shifted the way I feel and how I see the world.
"My family would say there has been a real shift at home as a wife, a parent and maybe even as a colleague ... it's a game-changer."
- The information session is on February 8 at the Albury LibraryMuseum, 10am-11am. Register at lifelinealburywodonga.org.au