Meet our Volunteer of the Year, Frank Tipa Jr.

Charities and non-profits all around the world rely on volunteers to help them succeed and grow. PoetsIN is no different. Over the years we’ve had many incredible volunteers who have dedicated their time and energy to the charity and words cannot express the gratitude we have for each of them. In December we launched our annual Volunteer of the Year Award – an award to express how truly thankful we are for the people who dedicate themselves to our charity, the team and to the clients that need our support.


On December 30th, we announced Frank Tipa Jr. as our very first winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award. After giving him some time to let the award sink in, we reached out for some insight into what makes our Volunteer of the Year tick. Read on for more on Frank and his volunteer award.

Hello Frank! Let’s start off by sharing a little bit about yourself. Who is Frank Tipa Jr.?

The nuts and bolts of that answer is that I’m a 58-year-old guy who has two terrific young sons who I’m very proud of. Like many other people, I’ve had a pretty uneventful life. I have some great parents, and I’ve been through the difficult process of divorce after 24 years. Followed up by a not-so-great relationship. But amazingly, I’ve been so very lucky to connect with my now wife, Cindra. She’s been my level, my calm in the storm, and along with my wonderful PoetsIN family, has helped me realise the importance of boundaries and my own worth in this world.

Frank and his beautiful wife, Cindra.

When did you begin volunteering for PoetsIN?

Right from the start. I connected with Sammie back when we were with another group. When things went sideways there, due to some unsavoury individuals, Sammie and Paul formed PoetsIN. I made the jump with them and immediately offered whatever help I could give. First as moderator, then later as an admin. I’ve been doing so ever since.

What compelled you to dedicate your time and effort to volunteering for PoetsIN?

I think there are multiple reasons. I’ve had multiple stints volunteering. Years ago, as a young man, I was briefly involved with my dad in our local Lions Club. An organisation that helped the community, with a strong emphasis on helping the blind. It was the first building block in helping me understand the importance of giving back. Then, when my oldest son was 7 years old, he wanted to join cub scouts. Long story short, and very much like PoetsIN, I was surrounded by terrific people. I quickly realised the good they were doing, helping young boys by reinforcing the core values that parents, school, and church were working to instil. After about 15 years, I stepped away from scouts. It was around that time that I started dabbling in writing, eventually connecting with Sammie, and subsequently jumping in and volunteering at PoetsIN.

Two of Frank’s biggest supporters and inspirations for charitable work – his mum and dad.

What type of volunteer work do you do for PoetsIN?

My role consists of reviewing and approving posts, I’m typically the person responsible for approving member requests, I help with buddy services by assisting with buddy chats for those folks who need some more individual support, and I work with the other volunteers to support Sammie, Paul, and the rest of the PoetsIN team. We all work hard to make this space, as I like to call it, the safest space on earth!  

How do you juggle your day-to-day responsibilities with volunteering?

Some days that’s easier than others, but I utilise the opportunities each day brings to jump in. In the evenings after work and on my days off, I’m able to give more time, never forgetting to make sure I leave time for myself. Our team is fantastic, and the admin help each other get some down time, and pick up the slack when someone has a personal issue that may keep them from being active.  

What is your favourite part of volunteering for PoetsIN?

My favourite part of volunteering is when we offer support or we do a buddy chat with someone who’s having a rough go of things, and that support helps them get to a better place. Life is so full of challenges, and sometimes we just need someone to remind us of our worth, offer suggestions of how to get through a tough time, or cheer us on. That’s what we do here.

Most memorable experience as a volunteer?

Well, receiving this award certainly takes the cake! I can’t think of one single experience, so I think it really boils down to my excitement in watching this organisation grow from the ground up, and to be a small part of the success it’s had in helping others and striving to beat down the stigmas that surround mental health. I talk to people all the time about this organisation, the good we do, and how proud I am to be a part of PoetsIN.  

What are your thoughts on mental health?

I used to have the mindset that many people do about mental health. Probably was influenced by the stigmas that surround mental health challenges. I was part of the “Suck it up,” “Man up,” “Just get over it” crowd. But the suicide of a close friend, and relationship struggles I went through, helped me realize that although I might not be in as dark a place as some might be, poor mental health does not discriminate. Anyone and, most likely, everyone suffers from poor mental health at some point.  

Many of us, especially men, are taught to “power through it,” and many find it difficult to share their fears and difficult emotions that come along with a variety of life events that can spark mental health challenges. Divorce, death, losing a job, and so many other things that people experience, can take even the most emotionally balanced individual, and have them spiralling into a dark place. The support of others, and tools to help manage those challenges, is the key to getting to a better place. I realised much of this going through my divorce and a follow up relationship after separating from my ex-wife. My support system of family, friends, and my brothers and sisters here at PoetsIN helped me through that. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your background is, we can all be victims of poor mental health, but with the right support and the love of others, we can all climb out of the hole it sometimes puts us in.

Do you see yourself continuing your volunteer status in the future and why?

I honestly don’t see an end to my volunteering for PoetsIN for so many reasons. Helping others is so important; I’ve got a tremendous amount of love and respect for the others doing the same work here and, selfishly, I get the benefit of receiving support by volunteering, as my fellow volunteers, as well as the paid staff and members of the group, often offer their support when things aren’t going well in my life.

As a volunteer you have the opportunity to work alongside some of the PoetsIN team members. Describe your experience with them. 

I couldn’t ask for a more supportive, caring, and loving group of people. Aside from a few phone calls, I have not met one of the people I work with here in person, but consider them not only friends, but brothers and sisters. We truly are a family.  


What was your reaction to winning the 2022 Volunteer of the Year Award?

Literally blown away! None of us do this work for accolades. We’re here to help, and when we see the fruits of our labour, that is our reward! Having said that, to be recognised in this manner, by the folks you work for, as well as your peers who work alongside you each and every day, is pretty awesome! Honestly, any one of my fellow volunteers is worthy of this award, and I am so proud to be chosen for it.

Leave us with your words of wisdom.

HA! Me with words of wisdom? I would simply say that you should never underestimate the power of talking to someone about the struggles you’re having. And don’t get hung up on how young or old a person is. Many of my closest supporters, including my fellow admins and my supervisor at work, are younger than me, but often help me find clarity when my thoughts are a bit muddy. I’m so grateful for each and every one of you who’ve listened and counselled me, and even more grateful for the love of and acceptance I’ve gotten here at PoetsIN. 

Well there we have it. The insights to a most incredible human being with the most giving heart. Team PoetsIN is so grateful to have Frank’s support and we look forward to many more years of teamwork and friendship with him. 

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