CONTACT Helpline fish fry helps keep the lines open

May 13, 2009

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Every morning around 8:30 a.m., 92-year-old June Kettinger relies on the phone to ring. The daily reassurance call from volunteers with CONTACT Helpline is one small but vital link that helps the Columbus resident continue living on her own.


"I really look forward to it; I''m so blessed to have that call," said Kettinger, who moved to Mississippi more than 40 years ago when her late husband, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, accepted a position with American Bosch. "I think about the ones that are doing the calling. Their voices are always so sweet."


The grateful Kettinger is one of almost 300 clients who receive a daily reassurance call, one of the many services offered by CONTACT, the 24-hour crisis telephone line and listening service locally established in 1975.



For the third year, area farm-raised catfish -- and a generous community -- will help the CONTACT phone lines stay open. The United Way agency will hosts its annual Fish Fry Fundraiser Saturday, May 16, in the Kroger parking lot on Highway 45 North.


To-go plates of fresh catfish fillets, crisp hush puppies, fries, cole slaw and a refreshing drink can be picked up any time between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Each plate is $7.


"The fish fry raises funds for CONTACT to run; it helps us be able to make our reassurance calls and keep our lines open, ready for anyone to call any time who''s in a crisis situation," said Executive Director Lindy Thomason.


"We had a lot of good compliments on the food last year, and everybody enjoyed it," Thomason said. "We hope it''ll be even bigger and better this year."



Always there


The Helpline provides a vital round-the-clock service. CONTACT received almost 8,000 calls in 2008, a number that tends to go up every year, according to Thomason. Eighty-one of those calls were from individuals contemplating suicide. Others were from those dealing with anxiety issues, depression, grief, substance addictions, abuse situations, physical health problems and interpersonal or relationship problems. Some simply call because of overwhelming loneliness.


"Those phone lines and our trained volunteers provide that listening ear, and we can often refer callers to agencies that can meet their special needs."


CONTACT is actively seeking additional volunteers. A new training class begins in July, offering 36 hours total of classroom and phone room training.


The reassurance calls can even be done by volunteers from home, between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Training for those calls is approximately one hour, said Thomason. Additional volunteers would allow the agency to expand the reassurance call list.


The CONTACT motto -- "Listening With Our Hearts" -- often radiates through the phone lines.


"I''m so thankful to have that call every day," Kettinger said. "They (the volunteers) take that special time to call everybody; and what a blessing that is to us."


You can support CONTACT''s continuing mission by stopping by the fish fry Saturday and treating the family to catfish for supper. While waiting for the cookers to heat up, enjoy these tempting recipes courtesy of The Catfish Institute at





2 tablespoons olive oil


1/4 cup lime juice


1 cup Chardonnay wine


2 tablespoons dry mustard


2 tablespoons chili powder


2 teaspoons pepper


1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)


1 pound U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets