May 27, 2011 6:10:00 PM
BY JAN SWOOPE
For the frustrated caller, whose tension vibrates through the phone line, to the hopeless one, whose desolation begs for a caring ear, CONTACT volunteers are always there. For 35 years, the 24-hour helpline has provided someone who can "listen with the heart." And now, to continue and expand that mission, CONTACT needs you. New volunteer training sessions begin June 4.
CONTACT, a United Way agency, is calling all ministers, advisers, counselors, emergency workers, mental health workers, teachers and others to participate. Executive Director Lindy Thomason also encourages stay-at-home moms, business professionals, even college students, to consider the training course.
"For every person we send out into the community with this knowledge, it benefits all those family, friends, and co-workers that they come in contact with," she noted.
For three consecutive Saturdays new volunteers will receive intensive training, with emphasis on improving listening skills, dealing with marriage and family conflicts, loneliness, grief, depression, thoughts of suicide and substance and sexual abuse.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 4, 11 and 18, experienced mentors and representatives of area support agencies will show how answering a phone call can help take people from a breaking point to a turning point.
Christine Chandler of Columbus underwent training and has been a faithful CONTACT volunteer for about four years.
"I like to be informed, and when you take this class, you will have the necessary resources to help others and give back to your community. It will be time well spent," she shared. "It will help you know what to expect and give you the reassurance, the confidence, that you''re able to do this. To volunteer is very rewarding."
When a crisis line can alter the path of a caller considering suicide, or a depressed teen thinking about destructive behavior, the community as a whole benefits and becomes stronger, Thomason said.
"When we become informed, release our judgments and are no longer afraid to support a person facing any type of crisis, we create human connections that sustain life and offer positive potential," she added.
The crisis line took 8,390 calls in 2010. (Reassurance call volunteers also made 79,122 phone calls to more than 300 seniors and/or disabled clients in eight counties in 2010.)
"Our volunteers amaze me," praised the director. "Our crisis line specialists hear the most private hurts and pains of thousands of people. I''m touched by the commitment and passion of those who support (our) mission."
Everyone has a CONTACT story, she believes.
"If we''re honest, each of us has been in a place physically or mentally where we felt simply broken," Thomason said. "In most cases, it was one person, or possibly many, that listened to our fears, encouraged our plans, laughed with us in the midst of tears -- but most of all, they were available when we needed them, for a moment, an hour or a day. This is the volunteer story of CONTACT."
Reserve a place in June''s training classes by calling the helpline office at 662-327-2968 or 800-377-1643. To learn more about the agency, visit contacthelplinegtrms.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.