Celebrating 50 years of Hope & Light!

Contact Community Services has been bringing hope and light to those in need for 50 years. Contact began in 1971 as a volunteer-based telephone counseling service for Central New York. Since then, our scope of services and staff has steadily expanded.

In the early 1980s, we…

  • Offered classroom programs focusing on social and emotional learning, including interpersonal skills and managing emotions.

  • Expanded our children and youth development programming into community settings.

  • Collaborated with educators, mental health professionals and other community members to improve learning environments through school and district-wide training and consultation addressing nonacademic barriers to learning.

In 2009, Contact

  • Affiliated with the Mental Health Association of Onondaga County (MHA), bringing an expansion of services that included mental health workshops for adults.

Today, Contact is a multi-faceted organization that supports the social, emotional, behavioral and mental health of children, youth and adults. We deliver this support through three broad program areas: Crisis Services, School Services and Training & Education.

We are proud of the work we do to help create a suicide-safer community and reduce barriers associated with mental health challenges. For 50 years, Contact has helped millions of community members in need. With help…comes hope.

As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we are highlighting some of the hardworking and compassionate individuals that have impacted our continuous growth over the years. Each month, we include featured interviews from Board Members, Volunteers, Donors and Staff. Stay tuned as we continue to share more!

Our Dedicated Volunteers

Stuart Groom

Introducing Stuart Groom, Partner of JAS Recruitment by day, volunteer for the Contact Hotline by night. Originally from London, England, Stuart’s work took him to various countries throughout the world before settling down in the United States.

About six years ago, Stuart frequently shopped at a local retail outlet, where he would regularly see the same employee working when he’d go in. He saw a familiar look of loneliness and despair in the young man’s eyes that Stuart had once experienced himself. Stuart often felt depressed as a troubled teenager while living in Scotland.

One day, the young man was not working when he visited the store. Stuart asked another employee where the young man was and they said he had passed away, but the family was not forthcoming about what happened. Although Stuart never knew for certain, he believes the young man had been struggling with depression and wondered if there was something he could have done and what he could do to help others in the future. “I felt bad, he must have felt alone. I felt if I could do something to help one person in that kind of situation get through it then it’s worth it,” Stuart said.

Three and a half years ago, Stuart decided to start volunteering with Contact. He said, “The most rewarding thing at the end of the day is feeling like you are actually helping someone.” Since he started, he’s learned more about mental health and stigmas. “People don’t talk about mental health. We need to understand more about mental health issues instead of shunning them.” Stuart added, “I may not be able to make someone climb out of a ditch but what I can do is climb into the ditch with them and help someone realize they are not alone. If someone is struggling, reach out to Contact. They are there to help. They will listen. You are not alone.”

Cindy Sutton

Cindy Sutton, what a woman! Cindy graciously volunteered with Contact for almost 10 years. Prior to volunteering, Cindy worked as a school psychologist while raising three children. She later went back to school to get her Ph.D. and became a professor at Hobart & William Smith College.

After retiring, Cindy felt compelled to give back in a person-to-person way. She then began volunteering for the Hotline during the morning shift and later, helped train new volunteers. She believes the most rewarding parts were interacting with the callers and helping them feel less ‘stuck.’ For her, Contact provided, what she sees as, “a real way to give back to the community” where every day was different.

When she reflects on her time spent volunteering, she believes she became a better listener and says, “with some guidance, people have a tremendous ability to figure things out and that is the most lasting kind of learning.” Cindy’s passion and hard work have made such an impact on so many individuals lives and continues to in her community. She currently volunteers locally in her hometown of Cazenovia, NY with ‘Cazenovia Welcomes Refugees’ which focuses on increasing diversity and helping families start their lives in the area.

Cindy continues to prove that there are everyday “heroes” among us. To anyone struggling, she wants you to know, “you are worth living, your life is worth living and you have the power in you to create a life for yourself. I believe in you.”

Neil Smith

Meet Neil Smith, Partner at Mackenzie Hughes LLP, and current Board Member at Contact. Neil joined the Board about five years ago and since then, has also become a part of the Executive Committee and helps deal with the financial investments. He first found out about Contact after another partner at his firm mentioned an opening on the Board.

As time went by, Neil believed Contact helped him put things in perspective. After his first year on the Board, Contact held an event to honor volunteers. While awards were being handed out, many volunteers shared experiences they had during shifts. Neil recalls thinking, “They are truly saving lives.” This event had an impact on him and he often reflects on it today. “Contact plays a critical role in our community because we have an underreported problem of suicide and mental health crises in our society and Contact provides a vital service that helps combat that problem and that’s the chief thing that motivates me. …Contact is part of the solution to that fundamental crisis,” he says.

Neil plans to continue his role on the Board and hopes Contact will continue providing services and expand their programs in more in school districts. He says, “The ultimate goal… is for Contact to fulfill their mission and not be necessary anymore. I would love for a day when… no one is in crisis or has to make that phone call.”

Make a Donation

In honor of Contact’s 50th anniversary, consider making a donation today. Help us continue to bring hope and light to those in need in our community.

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