Volunteers are the heart of our agency and have been from its inception. Contact Community Services began in 1971 as a 24-hour telephone counseling and crisis hotline staffed entirely by volunteers. Today we have approximately 60 valued volunteers who continue to play and an integral role in our TeleCare and The Contact Hotline programs.
TeleCare is a free telephone reassurance program which provides a regular connection to isolated and vulnerable members of our community. Volunteers make outbound calls to enrolled clients and provide medication reminders, welfare checks, and social visits. TeleCare training is roughly 4 hours and support is ongoing. Once volunteers are trained on TeleCare and are comfortable with the computer, phone, and active listening, they have the opportunity to be cross trained on the Contact Hotline.
The Contact Hotline is a safe place to talk. It provides free, confidential, 24-hour service for anyone who is depressed, in crisis, going through a hard time, thinking about suicide, or just needs to hear a caring voice. Most calls are not suicide related.
We have a wonderfully diverse team of volunteers who range in age from 18 to 80+. Their unique perspectives and experiences lend a richness to our service that we could not create through training. The one thing that all of our volunteers have in common is their desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
Benefits of volunteering your time and skills with us include:
- Learn how to truly listen and enhance your communication skills
- Build your resume and gain experience to strengthen your employment and school applications
- Expect the unexpected when the phone rings
- Feel energized when you connect with a client
- Sign up for flexible shift times that work with your schedule
- Access to additional training and certification opportunities
- Learn more about community partners
We do not require volunteers to have specific skills, education, or job experience. However, all of our volunteers need to have an open heart, an open mind and a willingness to listen. Our training will instill the skills and confidence volunteers need to successfully support clients who present with a wide range of life challenges and issues.
Essential volunteer functions
- Support clients by exhibiting strong active listening skills
- Maintain client and colleague confidentiality
- Attended required basic and advanced trainings
- Participate in other continuing education opportunities as offered
- Must be reliable and have a sincere desire to help others
- Must show respect and compassion for people affected by mental health conditions and life challenges
- Comfort using a computer and telephone
- Ability to complete basic training
- Commit to at least three 4-hour shifts per month for the first six months and then two 4-hours of service per month thereafter
- Attend twice per year volunteer advanced trainings
- Commit to 12 months of service
Student interns play an important role in supporting our agency’s staff and volunteers. Our training and experience are well-regarded in the community and it is a strong addition to any resume. Former interns have told us that interning with us was crucial to landing jobs in the field and helped strengthen their college and graduate school applications. This is a great setting to build core skills and to gain hands-on experience in the field.
Other reasons to intern at the Hotline:
- Earn college credit
- Receive free training and mentorship (letters of recommendation and/or professional references)
- Learn to appreciate the importance of self-care
- Learn about yourself and find out if you can work with a certain demographic
- Take advantage of flexible hours
- Network and learn about job opportunities in the community
- Change lives and have a positive impact
If interested in interning or completing field work at Contact, please complete our Contact Intern Application:
Contact volunteer recruitment and training is ongoing. We accept applications year-round.
Training to make TeleCare calls is roughly 4-hours and includes shadowing, one-on-one instruction to gain familiarity with active listening and the computer and phone and making calls under the guidance of a trainer. Once ready to take calls, volunteers continue to be supported by staff during their shifts.
After a volunteer is comfortable with TeleCare, they can choose to be cross trained on the Hotline. The Contact Hotline is a safe place to talk. It provides free, confidential, 24-hour service for anyone who is depressed, in crisis, going through a hard time, thinking about suicide, or just needs to hear a caring voice. Most calls are not-suicide related. Our 40+ hour Hotline training curriculum instills the skills and confidence needed to successfully support clients who present with a wide range of life challenges and issues.
Components of Hotline basic training include:
Orientation An introduction to our agency’s history, mission, and organization. During this time trainees learn what to expect as a volunteer and what their volunteer commitment will entail.
Observation During observation shifts, a trainee will shadow an experienced volunteer as he/she answers calls and later discuss skills used and call management strategies. Trainees complete three observation shifts.
Self-guided training modules These self-guided training modules are computer-based and can be completed in the comfort of one’s home or at a designated training station at our office. Training modules are comprised of readings, PowerPoint presentations, audio recording, and videos. Topics covered during this training include:
- The foundation of active listening
- Crisis and suicide risk assessment
- Active intervention for suicide
- Mental health awareness
Individualized instruction and role plays All trainees meet one-on-one with a trainer to review content and practice skills through role play.
Apprenticing After completing observation and classes, trainees begin apprenticing shifts. An experienced peer trainer coaches and supports them as they answer Hotline calls. Most trainees complete four apprenticing shifts before they begin to take calls on their own.
Our training is extensive to meet the requirements for our certification with the American Association of Suicidology and in order to maintain our reputation as a viable service to the community.
Do I need to have counseling experience to volunteer?
No experience necessary. We will provide the training necessary to connect with and support our clients/clients.
What does your ideal volunteer candidate look like?
Volunteers should be naturally empathetic, dedicated, and able to work in a fast-paced environment. Basic computer skills are a must. Beyond that we are looking for a diverse range of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.
How can I give advice to people when I am not an expert?
We do not give advice. We are not here to tell clients what we even think they should do. We are here to listen and to help them look at their own situations and make their own decisions. However, if the client is ready to discuss solutions, we can facilitate that process. Not feeling responsible for solving the client’s problems is vital to be a successful telephone counselor.
Are you currently accepting volunteer applications?
Yes, we accept applications year round. Click here to access the online volunteer application:
Can I make/answer calls from home or off-site?
No. All telephone calls are completed at our call center. The reasoning for this requirement is two-fold. First, we need to protect the confidentiality of our clients/clients, so we require that no client information leaves our site. We also want you to feel supported as a volunteer, so we make sure you have supervisors whom you can consult with whenever you need assistance or just need to process a difficult call.
How can just listening to someone be helpful?
It might take a while to understand how powerful it can be for one person to listen to another without interrupting, judging, or giving advice. Our training teaches volunteers the value of the gift of listening.
Can I really be nonjudgmental with all clients?
We are not asking you to alter your value system, but we will train you to respond without judgment to a those whose values conflict with your own. Not giving advice or passing judgment on a client’s actions are key components to our listening model.
What if I speak with someone thinking about suicide?
Most prospective volunteers feel anxious about handling a crisis call. We devote a substantial portion of our training to teaching how to respond to suicide-related calls. It is important to remember that the person is calling and not acting. We can assume they have mixed feelings about ending their lives as a way of ending their pain.
How often do people utilize the Hotline?
About 20 to 25% of our daily calls come from individuals who have used our service for many years. They are calling for daily support and understanding. We have guidelines for these clients: they are permitted one ten-minute call per day
Do you refer clients to community agencies?
Less than 10% of our calls end by giving a referral. Most clients are looking for a safe place to talk and are not necessarily ready for a “next step.” “How” and “when” to give a referral are covered in the training.
Will I be working alone?
For more information, please call 315-251-1400 x115 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application for Training
Please click on the button to complete this brief online application for training.