For 40 years, volunteers with CONTACT Care Line have provided a listening ear to East Tennesseans in crisis, and the Oak Ridge-based nonprofit is inviting the public to a Friday evening of bluegrass music to celebrate its milestone anniversary.
The public is also recognizing CONTACT, with both the city of Oak Ridge and Rep. John Ragan from Tennessee’s District 33 proclaiming November as “CONTACT Care Line Month,” a press release said.
“A lot has changed in 40 years,” said Deb Patterson, CONTACT’s executive director, “but six of our volunteers have been with us from Day One, and what hasn’t changed is that lonely people, people with mental illnesses, the elderly—all of us, really—need someone to talk to every once in a while. It’s going to be special to reach the 40-year milestone and to thank all our telephone workers.”
The 40th Ruby Anniversary Balloon Pop Concert featuring the Ridge City Ramblers will be held from 7-10 p.m. Friday at the Pollard Conference Center in Oak Ridge. The Ramblers will provide a fun mix of bluegrass and Americana music, and there’ll be a prize in every balloon, the press release said.
In recent years, CONTACT Care Line has expanded to cover the entire Greater Knoxville area due to closure of other crisis lines, including CONTACT’s Knoxville office. Among 2014 goals is finding office space in Knoxville to make it easier for volunteers to serve at a time when allowing people to make connections is as important as ever.
“What CONTACT does here and around the country is to provide the simple power of a listening ear, a seemingly small act with enormous benefits in reducing social isolation and building supportive connections,” Patterson said.
Volunteers receive 40 hours of training in listening skills that they use in all areas of their lives. Throughout the year, CONTACT also offers public classes such as a day course scheduled for Saturday called “Mindfulness Meditation for Health, Healing, and Stress Reduction,” led by Claudio Barrientos, director of The Mindful Center Knoxville at the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church.
CONTACT fields some 10,000 inbound telephone calls and makes another 10,000 outbound calls with people who are homebound, lonely, facing a crisis, and at times contemplating suicide. CONTACT is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, including a contingent of University of Tennessee psychology students whose time listening to callers provides valuable experience.
Proceeds from the Nov. 22 concert and Nov. 23 training session directly benefit CONTACT. For tickets or to register for training, contact Patterson at (865) 312-7451.