Are you in need of help or feel you have no place to turn? Volunteers at Contact-Concern of Northeast Tennessee are trained to meet the needs of those who require information and referral to health and human services agencies.
Committed to confidentiality, volunteers listen 15 hours a day, 365 days a year to people who are calling for a variety of reasons - such as abuse situations, loneliness, depression, a need for temporary financial assistance, medical direction or support group information. If needed, callers may receive crisis intervention or a daily reassurance call. Last year, volunteers processed 15,000-plus calls at Contact-Concern. Contact also provides the answering services for a domestic violence shelter.
All it takes to receive assistance from Contact -Concern is to dial 2-1-1.
The voices of reassurance are those of numerous dedicated volunteers who graciously give their time to help out those who need a sympathetic ear, names and telephone numbers of additional resources, or sometimes just a reassuring word or two. Unfortunately, officials say the number of volunteers is almost at its lowest in decades.
“I think the reason for this decline is that we have relied for so long on older telephone volunteers and now they are having health problems themselves, moving away, or no longer driving,” said Lynn Sorrell, executive director of 211 Contact Concern. “They have been such dedicated and valuable volunteers, but there comes a time when they want to ‘pass the torch’ to younger volunteers and unfortunately we are not getting as many of the younger people as we once did.”
Extensive training is provided to volunteers who must be at least 18 years of age. There are 20 to 30 hours of training involved initially, with continued education throughout the year, and some special crises training as well.
“We have 120 shifts a month that must be covered,” Sorrell said. “Each shift is four hours and we ask each volunteer to take two shifts a month. When the number of volunteers decreases, the volunteers must take on additional shifts.”
As with almost any non-profit agency, there is always the need for funding and Contact-Concern raises money through a variety of partnerships and fundraisers. Funding is provided by local United Ways and by direct community support. With additional resources, Contact could provide more up-to-date information on service agencies and/or provide paid telephone workers to fill in the gap caused by the competitive or aging volunteer pool.
Special events are also a popular way of raising both funds and awareness, and Contact-Concern holds several throughout the year.
One is parking cars at Bristol Motor Speedway during the August race.
Another, one of the more popular fundraisers, is the annual Charity Golf Classic which will be held on Friday, Sept. 6, at Crockett Ridge Golf Course in Kingsport. The tournament is an 18-hole select shot including driving range, lunch and prizes. Lunch will be served at 12 noon, and there will be a shotgun start at 1:30 p.m. Fees are $75 per golfer, payable by check or online through PayPal at http://www.contactconcern.org.
For more information about volunteer opportunities at Contact-Concern of Northeast Tennessee or for details about the golf tournament, visit Contact-Concern online or simply call 2-1-1.