One of the PIN (People in Need) Crisis Intervention Society’s first volunteers is proud to have served on the line and as a board member for 36 years. The organization started in 1975 after community service agencies saw a need for people to have a place to talk anonymously and confidentially about life issues and a way to keep contact with seniors living on their own.
“The hospital volunteer coordinator at the time, Aileen Brooker, got a grant and we were able to work with the health unit and other support groups and we have been there ever since,” said Cathie Stewart, who was working at the hospital then.
Nancy Ingersoll, a teacher, got involved about 25 years ago after her father died.
“I thought it was a good thing to do something to get out of thinking about myself,” she said.
The PIN Crisis Intervention Society, with trained volunteers, started at the hospital and when that space was needed, moved several times in the city until it found a permanent home in The People Place.
“We saw a need and provided it and promoted it. This is different from any other kind of support that is available in the community. We’ve been there 24/7. For 36 years, we’ve managed to put someone at the end of a phone. We listen, we don’t counsel. We give callers a chance to be heard and often when talking, they will recognize for themselves what it is that is really bothering them and what it is they need to do next. We also offer referrals to other agencies if asked,” said Stewart.
People call the line about a variety of life issues, including relationships, grief and loss, health, finances, food and shelter needs, addictions and anxiety. People do not need to be in a severe crisis to need support to help make things better.
Ingersoll sees the line as a way of empowering people as they get information and find their own direction. Volunteer staff members are trained to listen non-judgmentally and there are many volunteers who have given years of service.
“The dedication of the volunteers is above anything that could be hoped for in volunteers. They must be anonymous and they do their work without any recognition from the community. It takes a special, unique person to do a volunteer job and not get any recognition,” said Ingersoll.
The crisis line and the Good Morning program, which calls to check in with seniors on request, still operate in Vernon with local volunteers. The service is now part of the Interior Crisis Line Network which serves the Interior Health Authority region. This means that no caller will ever get a busy signal. If they call their local line and it is busy, they will automatically be transferred to a volunteer in another centre who will help. All volunteers receive the same training and are familiar with the resources in all area communities.
“It can take courage to call in the first place so everyone should have the chance to talk to a person when they call, not be told to call back,” said Ingersoll. “There is real value in this service to the community — that people know they can call and talk to a compassionate and caring volunteer.”
The new administration for the service has been working well.
“I think the success is in the simplicity. There are no hidden messages. Everyone is accepted equally. We are here and we care. What we have in common is being present with everyone in the community, we stand next to each other. When people say thank you at the end of a call, that is a wonderful gift,” said Stewart.
She and Ingersoll have not worked directly on the lines for several years but have been busy board members. Now that the society has disbanded, they will share their talent, experience and expertise in other parts of the community.
For more information about the Crisis Line & Referral Service call 1-888-353-2273 or see www.peopleinneed.ca.