Townhall II Helpline offers 24-hour support

Jessica Renner

At Townhall II in Kent, there is a small room with wide glass panes where two of the walls should be. Five computers sit in this room, and 15 phones wait to ring.

Those phones make up the Helpline, a 24-hour crisis line that enables callers to get emotional support or information from volunteers.

The Helpline is home to many volunteers, and some are Kent State students. Christa Veltri, the volunteer coordinator at Townhall II, said about 90 percent of the Helpline volunteers are students. Along with their studies, jobs and social lives these students set aside 200 or more hours annually to work the Helpline, Veltri said.

Veltri said students gain a lot while volunteering.

“When someone calls in and they are in a dark place and students are able to help them through that time, the feeling is priceless,” Veltri said.

The line can be called for information but is mainly used by people seeking support during emotional crises. The volunteers go through 80 hours of training to understand how to speak with people while they are going through difficult times dealing with issues such as suicide and domestic violence.

Junior psychology major Christy Senyens, Townhall II’s current volunteer of the year, said the training was the most difficult part for her, as was working the line when she first started.

“There is a certain anxiety when the phone rings because you never know what is going to be on the other end,” Senyens said.

Ann Redford, a conflict management major, has also been confronted with struggles while volunteering. She mainly worries about not knowing what to say to callers, but relating to them makes her feel more confident.

“You never know what you can do until you put yourself in that situation,” Redford said.

Still, volunteers said they believe the stress on them is outweighed by the benefits gained by working at the Helpline.

Redford said the Helpline has helped her to confront difficult topics that she may need to work with in her future career.

“It is a safe way to get into those tough topics,” she said.

Senyens has learned that acceptance of people is vital and has gained the ability to treat each person as an individual.

“You learn how to listen to people,” she said. “Sometimes that is all anyone needs.”

Veltri knows that not only does the volunteer experience stand out on students’ resumes as a unique one, but it also infiltrates their lives and makes them gain a feeling of self-fulfillment.

“People find this work meaningful and valuable,” she said. “There is a feeling that you made a difference in some way.”

Contact social services reporter Jessica Renner at [email protected].