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COLUMBUS – Dave Petersen has made himself available for the last 15 years or so.

The 46-year-old Columbus man is at the Center for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors three Mondays a month for Children’s Group, giving his time to participate in activities and play with children.

“It’s a time for children to engage and get away from their problems,” said Petersen, noting that the kids’ parents are then able to meet with advocates at the center at the same time.

“My role is mostly the kids’ group. I’m able to get a sense of who they are and their personalities and build relationships,” said Petersen. “They just light up.”

Traci Pitlar, the center’s volunteer coordinator, has known Petersen for four years.

“He’s been here a lot longer that I have at the center,” Pitlar said, “but I’m still learning about all the things he’s done for the center.”

Pitlar said Petersen is the man at the Children’s Group.

“He connects with those kids one-on-one,” she said. “He has them feeling right at home. Dave is just awesome.”

The city man had a quick and simple answer for why he’s so devoted to the center.

“It’s just a part of my life,” he said with a smile.

Children’s Group isn’t all he’s done for the Center for Survivors since his wife Wendi, an elementary school counselor for Columbus Public Schools at West Park and Emerson elementary schools, asked if he’d like to volunteer in 2003.

The employee at Mid-American Research Chemical (MARC) in Columbus has also participated in maintenance activities at the shelter. He and his wife also run down a grocery checklist once a month to pick up food items that are needed at the shelter.

Volunteers are provided a food list by clients staying in the emergency shelter. Shoppers will once a week take the grocery list provided and purchase the items requested by the client in shelter. Funds are provided by grants and donations for food for clients in the shelter.

The couple have also been known to pick up furniture that’s been donated that will make the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families more comfortable in their stay.

They will also provide a little holiday cheer for families, picking up presents at Christmastime using funds donated to the agency.

“We’re on-call to help whenever they ask,” said Petersen, who along with his wife are the parents of two children, Macy, 21, a visual retail merchandiser in Omaha, and Blake, 18, a senior at Columbus High School.

 “We do a little bit of everything,” he said.

The Center provides assistance to Butler, Polk, Platte, Nance, Boone, and Colfax counties in Nebraska. Crisis services are free and confidential.

Funding for services is provided by grants from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Columbus United Way, various other grants and tax-deductible contributions from individuals and organizations.

“I’m glad to volunteer,” Petersen said. “I’ll do it as long as I can.”

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