By Amy Geiszler-Jones
When he first started volunteering for the Wichita Women’s Initiative Network 13 years ago, Glen Chambers was teaching women how to do math.
Now he teaches women what a respectful man looks like, says WIN executive director Karen Schmidt. It’s an important thing for many of the women who’ve endured some of the worst kinds of relationships.
WIN serves female survivors of intimate partner abuse situations, giving them access to needed skills to overcome financial barriers to living independently.
Chambers, a retired Boeing computer programmer, started volunteering as a math tutor in one of WIN’s education programs, teaching algebra and geometry. Along the way, he learned more about domestic abuse and how it affects survivors.
In what Schmidt calls “his patient, kind, respectful manner,” he started earning their trust, a connection he doesn’t take lightly. For some women, Chambers knows, he’s likely the first male figure who’s given them the respect they deserve.
In a gesture of support and to model what a healthy relationship looks like, he and his wife, Carolyn, take WIN clients out to lunch. The women take heart that a good relationship can last, like the Chambers’ 45-year marriage. He holds open doors, helps them get out of a coat, helps them get seated – the kind of chivalrous behavior they’re likely not used to, but those are a few things he thinks a gentleman should do for a woman.
Schmidt estimates he’s impacted more than 100 women through the years. He’s developed deeper, fatherly-like relationships with about a handful of women, the ones he calls his “bonus daughters.” He was on the front row at a commencement ceremony when one earned a college degree with honors. He walked another down the aisle at her wedding. Both events moved him to tears, he said.
While he still helps tutor anyone who needs math skills, Chambers also picks up weekly food donations for WIN clients from a local church, helps as a handyman around the office and tells clients he’s ready to provide a listening ear if they need it.
“I’m of the feeling that those of us who are blessed have an obligation to help those who need our help,” said Chambers.
To find out more about WIN programs and how to volunteer, visit wichitawin.org.