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Blair County\’s Helpline looking for volunteers

For almost 25 years, CONTACT Altoona, Blair County’s only volunteer Helpline has provided a listening ear to local residents who are lonely, elderly shut-ins and people who just want someone to talk to. CONTACT Altoona telephones are staffed by trained volunteers and more volunteers are needed to help this nonprofit telephone service.
“In 2006 we recruited and trained almost 20 new volunteers,” Terriann Grove, CONTACT Altoona’s Executive Director said, recently. “We thought that was great and now we hope to get even more people interested and volunteering in 2007. With our new classes beginning February 12, we are designating January as CONTACT Altoona Recruiting Month. The number of calls are increasing and we need more volunteers to help us answer the telephones.”
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 February 12.
“We had a wonderful Fall class this past September,” Grove stated. “Even though this last class consisted of only seven people, the people who were there were great. We need more people like this last class.”
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,” Beverly Motsic, CONTACT Helpline Coordinator 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 2006, CONTACT Altoona had over 15,000 calls, incoming and outgoing.
“In order to keep up with that kind of volume, we need more volunteers,” Grove said. “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 September has been a huge help and we hope to add more from this next class.”
Roxanne Barr, CONTACT’s scheduler agreed on how the new volunteers helped make her job a little easier.
“The more volunteers we have, the easier it is filling up the monthly schedule,” she said. “But we are far from having enough volunteers. If we could get 25 or 30 more in 2007, it would really help us out keeping our schedule full.”
In 2007, CONTACT Altoona will celebrate their 25th anniversary and Grove is counting on getting more volunteers to help with the volume of calls coming in every day.
“CONTACT will be 25-years-old this year,” she said. “And we are making it our goal to attract more volunteers, so we can have all of our shifts filled, everyday. We need more volunteers and the way we get these people to come is to educate them about what we are about.”
In order to attract more volunteers, CONTACT Altoona has started a February advertising campaign .
“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 February classes, call 946-0531.
“It’s a great way for local residents to help make a difference in other people’s lives,” Grove added. “We hope to hear from a lot of people wanting to become a volunteer and make 2007 the year they open their hearts to others.”