Townhall II helps Kent residents deal with crises

Liz Laubscher

Junior psychology major Christy Senyes chooses to make uncomfortable situations part of her life – for precisely four hours a week.

She works with people who encounter problems with sexual assault, addiction, dependency, depression and loss of a loved one when she volunteers each week at Townhall II Crisis Helpline in Kent.

“It’s nice for people to know there is someone there (to help),” said Senyes, who has been volunteering at Townhall II since April. The center is nonprofit and offers services ranging from the Crisis Helpline to education and prevention programs.

It also offers Project Detour, which is a state certified driver intervention program for first-time DUI offenders, along with HIV prevention, suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention and crisis intervention and counseling.

The Helpline, however, is designed for people with any problem to call in anonymously and talk about their situation.

Senyes said she enjoys helping people and being able to get “real world experience,” but it was a challenge at first.

“Getting through the training was hard, and there were points I didn’t think I was going to make it through the training, but everyday it gets easier,” she said.

Training for Crisis Helpline volunteers consists of 80 hours of class time, which is broken down to two days a week – about four hours a day for 16 weeks. There are 30 hours of lecture discussing different topics and situations, including troubles with a partner or roommate, rape, sexual identity concerns and suicidal thoughts.

Another 30 hours consists of role playing a phone call intervention while being recorded, which gives volunteers a chance to practice what to say in a real situation. The last 20 hours of training consists of observation of actual phone calls taken by the Crisis Helpline.

Senyes feels the training she received through the Helpline is also beneficial to her everyday life.

“It gives you a different way to approach situations,” she said.

Senyes isn’t the only person who feels the training is beneficial outside of the Helpline. Christa Veltri, training coordinator for Townhall II, was once in Senyes’ place when she volunteered for the Helpline. Veltri agreed that she has been able to carry the skills she learned with her through many different situations in her own life, including her position now.

Another aspect Senyes and Veltri both agree on is that the job isn’t for everyone.

“It takes a committed person to go through all of it,” Senyes said.

Veltri said the job needs people who are caring, compassionate, have a desire to help others, and are nonjudgmental and open-minded.

Veltri said another trait the position requires is preparation.

“You never know what’s going to be on the other line,” she said.

Even though volunteering at the Helpline can be stressful at times, the rewards of helping someone in need outweigh the difficult situations. For Veltri, her greatest reward is “hearing the change in the tone of their voice from the beginning of the call to the end.”

She said even a simple “thank you” can make it all worthwhile.

For anyone who is interested in helping someone in need, while receiving skills and knowledge, contact Townhall II at (330) 678-3006. Training sessions begin Sept. 25. If you or someone you know needs help or someone to talk to, call the Townhall II crisis Helpline at (330) 678-HELP (4357).

Contact social services reporter Liz Laubscher at [email protected].