Our volunteers are an integral part of the work we do and we greatly appreciate their years of service. Meet one of our long-standing volunteers, Linda, as we honor and celebrate her 25 years with CONTACT Helpline:
Linda, this year marks your 25th year as a volunteer. What led you to volunteer in the first place and specifically with CONTACT Helpline?
I guess I was inspired by my husband’s participation. He was already a volunteer and board member for CONTACT when we met. I started going to events with them, met a lot of people, and liked the mission.
When my daughter went off to school and I had more time, I decided to do training to become a volunteer.
People told me I was a good listener and that I was patient. I thought I could be helpful or make a difference or be there for someone who needed to talk.
What is motivating you to continue to volunteer?
My experience over the years has helped me to see what a positive impact you can make with CONTACT. I think the services provided, especially emotional listening, is something that continues to be needed more and more. With the advancement of technology, people lose that human interaction. Some people don’t have someone to listen to them or we’ve gotten to the point we don’t listen actively. Through volunteering, we’re offering that active listening and support, and I’m seeing how important it is to provide something very rare.
Some years ago, I went to hear Sue Klebold speak at Penn State Harrisburg. She is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two boys responsible for the Columbine shootings in 1999. She had some pertinent things to say about listening and I realized how much her comments affirmed what we do on the Helpline. She spoke of how important it is to “listen without judgment, without trying to fix it, to validate what someone feels, and not try to talk them out of their feelings or tell them why they shouldn't feel that way.”
Sometimes, when I have tried to find resources for a person in need, but they aren’t available, I often tell them that I wish I could have found something for them. I have had more than a few callers tell me that it was okay and that they just appreciated being listened to with kindness. Listening is a powerful tool!
What message would you give to those who are thinking about volunteering?
You are very much needed and you will gain as much if not more than you give, from your experience. Volunteering opens your eyes and makes you more open-minded about people and about how to approach life.
It’s a very important mission and it’s sad to see volunteer numbers go down. I hope that younger volunteers will join in too. It would be good to have them get involved.
What do you feel is the biggest impact you’ve made throughout your time here?
Allowing people to be heard, truly heard, and helping to connect people to resources they can use to have a better life.
What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
There have been so many moments but one of the most memorable parts of my experience is that feeling you have when you know you’ve connected with another person and you feel the relief in their voice that they’ve been helped, that they’ve been understood, that they’re not alone.