Contact Altoona, Blair County's only 24-hour telephone helpline, is changing its training program from 10 weeks to five weeks.
Spring training classes begin April 4 and will conclude May 2 with classes being held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays at the Con-tact Altoona administrative offices.
"Many people who wanted to become a volunteer were unable to commit to our 10-week training program," said Terriann Grove, Contact Altoona executive director. "So we cut the number of weeks to five and increased the days of training to twice a week. The amount of training will be the same, but the number of weeks won't be as long."
Terriann Grove (left), Contact Altoona executive director, and TKay Gressley, Contact Altoona Helpline coordinator, go over material for the spring training classes, which begin April 4.
Training classes consist of local professionals teaching basic and advanced listening skills, along with learning how to handle calls of grief, loneliness, substance abuse, crisis calls and helping people find information for needed services. Contact Altoona's helpline is staffed solely by volunteers, and training sessions are held in the spring and fall.
"We are always in need of more volunteers," TKay Gressley, Contact Altoona's helpline coordinator said. "We have fantastic volunteers and we hope to get more during this spring training session." All calls are kept confidential, and all telephone volunteers remain anonymous.
Contact Altoona is a non-profit agency that has been providing helpline services to Blair County since 1982. Trained volunteers staff telephone lines, taking calls from individuals who are in need of a listening ear or looking for information and referral services. The growing need of the population for human services increases the need to effectively and efficiently connect people with the broadest range of community services. An extensive resource file enables Contact Altoona to serve as a link to the network of community resources and human service agencies.
"The number of people who call Contact Altoona continues to grow," Grove said, "and that makes it all the more important that we get more volunteers to help take these calls." Once the volunteer completes the training, they can sign up for any shift that fits into their schedule. "We allow our volunteers to tell us when they can volunteer," Gressley said. "Contact volunteers can pull shifts in their homes due to the call forwarding service available. A lot of people don't like coming out at night or in bad weather," she said. Another service provided by Contact Altoona is the Reassurance Program, where volunteers make calls to designated residents who are shut-ins, people living alone or people who are ill or handicapped. The reassurance call can be a comforting call to someone who doesn't communicate with anyone all day, and it also serves as a reminder for residents to take their medicine and to make sure they are safe. "The Reassurance Program is constantly growing," Gressley said, "and on more than one occasion, we have called people who have fallen and needed help. It's a tremendous program."
"Volunteering is a nice way for people to give back to their community," Grove said. "We hope local residents come out on April 4 and see what Contact Altoona is all about and see how they can change someone's life.''
For more information about becoming a helpline volunteer or to register for the spring training class, call 946-0531 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.