August designated as CONTACT Altoona Awareness Month

For the past 22 years, CONTACT Altoona, Blair County’s 24-hour Helpline has provided a listening ear to local residents who are lonely, elderly shut-ins and people who just want someone to listen.
CONTACT Altoona telephones are staffed by trained volunteers, and more volunteers are needed to help this nonprofit telephone service.
“We are in great need of more volunteers,” CONTACT Altoona executive director, Terrian Grove said recently. “That’s why we have designated August as CONTACT Altoona Awareness Month. We want to recruit as many people to become volunteers as possible.”
To become a volunteer, residents must take part in an 11-week training program. Classes are offered in February and September. The classes are free for those who register and the next class begins September 12.
“We had a wonderful winter class this past February,” said Grove. “We brought in 19 more new volunteers. We put out the call for help and local residents responded. It was wonderful.”
Classes are held once a week, at the Schum Memorial United Methodist Church in Altoona, with local professionals teaching classes on basic and advanced listening skills, understanding the elderly and helping people find information. Once the volunteer completes the training program, they are asked to volunteer two, four hour shifts per month.
“We don’t ask our volunteers for a lot of their time during the month,” Grove said. “And we allow our volunteers to tell us when they can schedule their shifts. We try to make it easy for them. And now our volunteers can actually pull their shifts in their homes since we have installed call forwarding. It makes it real easy for those volunteers who don’t like to go out at night.”
Along with the telephone hotline, CONTACT Altoona also has a reassurance call service, where elderly residents are called to make sure they are okay.
“On more than one occasion, our reassurance call service has helped elderly people who have fallen or aren’t feeling well,” Grove added. “It’s a wonderful program.”
In 2004, CONTACT Altoona had over 19,000 calls, incoming and outgoing.
“In order to keep up with that kind of volume, we need more volunteers.” added Grove.
“The volunteers we have now are phenomenal. A lot are giving more of their time than what we ask for. That’s why we are after more volunteers. Picking up those new volunteers in February has been a huge help and we hope to add more this winter from these September classes.”
In order to attract more volunteers, CONTACT Altoona has started an August advertising campaign that will include newspaper ads, radio commercials and billboard advertising.
“We need to get the word out,” Terriann said. “We want people to know in order to continue with our services, we need more help from local residents. It’s a way for local people to give back to the community.”
To become a phone volunteer and inquire about registering for September classes, call 946-0531.
“It’s a great way for local residents to help make a difference in other peoples’ lives,” Grove added. “We hope to hear from a lot of people wanting to become a volunteer and make 2005 the year they open their hearts to others.”