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 TLCS’ HOPE Line

 Submitted to the Empowerment Magazine by Jennifer

 

 

Even with a strong support network, capable staff, housing and consistency clients can still find themselves in need of a listening ear. Clients often need someone to shine the light on the path to finding hope thus, TLCS’ HOPE Line. This consumer run phone line was established in January 2010 as a response to a client expressing the need to communicate with their peers. “Sometimes we feel isolated, like the world is small but this phone line helps because we know there is someone who cares” says Judi, the co-team leader.

 

“I want to give back to the community. I want to help people find out that we aren’t alone in this, we can connect at the same level” says, Kenny, a HOPE Line volunteer. The HOPE line volunteers are actively Recycling Hope from the Heart with every call they take. In fact, that is a motto they came up with together at a monthly breakfast meeting. “We just want to give back.” says Laura, with a smile on her face. Kenny encourages TLCS clients to call in and take advantage of the open and understanding environment, “Look at me, I was in a real mess before [I came to TLCS] but now I am a living example of how this really works!”

 

“I don’t want people to suffer the way I did, my life is helping me help others” says Jennifer, the co-team leader. The HOPE Line is a cell phone and resource binder which rotates weekly from volunteer to volunteer. With 4 other TLCS clients, Jennifer offers support to her peers who might need a listening ear. “This is our line; people can call and talk about anything. We laugh together and we cry together.” Jennifer continues, “I am in a better mood right after I get off of a call because I know I’ve helped. This is what I want to do with my life.

I want to help people and the HOPE line reminds me that I can.”

 

From being available to consumers dealing with loneliness and isolation to motivating consumers struggling with depression, the HOPE line is a place where safety, warmth and honesty can be found.

 

At its one year anniversary, TLCS is excited to report that the HOPE Line has been an incredible tool, mutually beneficial for both the caller and the responder. From January to December 2011 the HOPE line received 138 calls which were tended to by 6 volunteers. Calls can range anywhere from under 5 minutes to an hour, depending on the consumer needs; the vast majority of calls are after hours which means volunteers sleep with the cell phone near the pillow and are ready to listen for any amount of time necessary. “Most people just want you to listen, it feels good to help and it feels good to get feedback from the caller;” says Judi, “I know I did a good job when they tell me they feel better at the end of a call.”

 

Volunteers are recruited from the TLCS volunteer committee (Project HOPE) and trained to take a wide variety of calls, keeping alert for serious mental health needs. Ron says, “Lots of personal experience is how I help. Lots of experience.” Volunteers are encouraged to maintain healthy boundaries by being aware of their limits.

 

Thevolunteers are supervised by the Residential Services Coordinator, the team works cooperatively with each in order to provide the highest level of support possible. This group of committed volunteers also gathers together monthly with staff to discuss the various calls that came through the

 HOPE Line, redefine boundaries when necessary, brainstorm how to handle calls and much more. Over a McDonald’s breakfast each month Kenny, Ron, Laura, Judi, Jennifer, Linda (TLCS Residential Program Coordinator) and Eric (Jesuit Volunteer) are able to process the joys, frustrations and concerns that may come up through the month. The HOPE Line is already approaching a record breaking number of calls this year, between January and April the volunteers have answered 98 calls.

 

When asked what the best part of the HOPE Line is, each person said giving back and the McDonald’s breakfast. This project affords the volunteers not only a place of service but a community outside of their residential program; they receive additional support and affirmation in their skills & abilities. “It’s been a pleasure developing and serving this project. I have witnessed the miracle of recovery happen for our Hope line volunteers when they know they have helped their peers and given hope to the hopeless” says Linda Bratcher the Residential Services Coordinator and founder of this project. It is clear that the volunteers are wholly invested in this service; they want to give back and they also want to grow in their recovery.

 

What gives hope to this group of volunteers who are dedicated to Recycling HOPE from the Heart?

“Stability.” –Kenny
“God.” –Ron
“Jesus.” –Judi
“Having faith.” –Laura
“God, my children, my boyfriend and this program.” –Jennifer

 

 

TLCS is a private, non-profit psychosocial rehabilitation agency located in Sacramento County, CA. We provide housing, living skills training, community support, entitlement advocacy and outreach services for people with psychiatric and other disabilities. http://www.tlcssac.org/