Contact Altoona announces spring training

Nonprofit launches its ‘35 for 35 Challenge’

Courtesy photo Contact Altoona Executive Director Terriann Grove, center, is seen with Contact Altoona helpline volunteer and board vice president Trudy Miller (left) and Contact Altoona Helpline volunteer and board member Kim McCarl while going over plans for Contact’s spring training classes that begin March 27. For more information, call 946-0531 or visit www.contact altoona.com.

Contact Altoona, Blair County’s only 24-hour telephone helpline is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with a “35 for 35 Challenge” in trying to recruit more volunteers.

Contact Altoona’s spring training classes begin March 27, and the nonprofit organization is taking an aggressive approach of recruiting more volunteers.

“We came up with the ’35 for 35 Challenge’ this year and it’s our goal to get 35 more volunteers in our spring class this year,” said Contact Altoona Executive Director Terriann Grove.

“We recently had an open house, and we are using a variety of media to advertise our spring classes. Contact Altoona started in 1982, and we want everybody to know we’ve been around for 35 years. “

Contact Altoona has more than 60 volunteers now, but more are needed since the number of calls continues to grow each year. In 2016, Contact Altoona received and made more than 35,000 calls to people who were looking for resource information and to people who were just looking for someone to talk to.

“The number of calls continues to grow each year,” Grove said. “We have so many dedicated volunteers now and we would love to get more.”

Contact Altoona’s training classes run for five weeks, with classes held Mondays and Tuesdays with local professionals teaching classes of basic and advanced listening skills, understanding the elderly and helping people find information. The classes are free to those sign up.

Once volunteers completes the training program, they are put with a veteran volunteer until the new volunteers feel comfortable in taking calls by themselves.

The volunteers can sign up for any shift, any time that suits their schedule; morning, afternoon or evening shifts.

“We let it up to our volunteers when they want to volunteer,” Grove said. “We work with our volunteers and try to accommodate them in every way.”

In addition to taking calls, Contact Altoona also has a Reassurance Program where volunteer helpline workers make calls to those who request to be called; that include shut-ins who are reminded to take their medications and keep their appointments and to those who just need someone to talk to. The Reassurance Program has grown to the extent that there are three teams of Reassurance Volunteer Callers that only make calls to those who request a call. “Our Reassurance Program has exploded these last couple of years, “ Grove said. “A lot of our volunteers love to make these calls on a daily basis. And the people who get the calls really appreciate hearing from our volunteers. “

Another important aspect of Contact Altoona that has attracted many volunteers is the Call Forwarding Program.

Helpline volunteers can now have the helpline calls forwarded to their homes, allowing the volunteer to pull a shift in the confines of their home.

If the volunteer does not like leaving home at night or drive through bad weather, the phone calls can be directed right to the home. “We have a lot of our volunteers use this service,” Grove added.

Contact Altoona hopes to meet its goal of 35 more new volunteers in it’s 35th year “That’s a lot of new volunteers,” she said. “But we think there are many , many people out there who will be willing to give a little bit of their time to help local residents in need.”

For more information about Contact Altoona’s Spring Training classes, call 946-0531 between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays or vis-it www.contactaltoona.com.

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