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Northfield Bank Foundation Donates $10,000 to Crisis Listening Line Caring Contact

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Ray Cruz and Maria Fuentes (left) of Northfield Bank present a check for $10,000 to Janet Sarkos of crisis listening line Caring Contact for its Save Our Youth Program.
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Northfield Bank Foundation has provided a grant of $10,000 to crisis listening line Caring Contact to enable the hotline to expand its Save Our Youth Program. Save Our Youth is a program designed to raise awareness about teen suicide and increase resources to help teenagers in crisis. 

Caring Contact is an award-winning, volunteer-staffed caring and crisis hotline and listening community, providing active listening support and best-in-class training to the Central and Northern New Jersey community. More than 80 trained volunteer listeners answered more than 10,200 calls last year from people in crisis, having suicidal thoughts or simply feeling depressed and lonely.

The hotline launched the Save Our Youth Program in 2012 and to date has distributed more than 30,000 pieces of educational materials to 110 schools, churches, service organizations and nonprofits working with youth throughout North-Central New Jersey, including posters, cards, bookmarks and brochures targeting both youth and adults.

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"The Northfield grant will enable Caring Contact to continue our work bringing training directly to youth and the people who support them, including active listening, emotional wellness and suicide prevention training," said Janet Sarkos, Caring Contact's executive director. "With this funding, we will accomplish the goal of giving students the tools they need to share their emotional pain and suffering with family and friends before reaching the point of considering suicide."

In the first quarter of 2018, Caring contact will hold four training sessions with youth groups, with several more in the planning stages, according to Sarkos. These include a youth group dealing with the suicide of a member and three scheduled for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey.

In addition, the hotline will hold scheduled ASIST training, a 16-hour suicide intervention certification course, for Cranford Public School counselors in April. This program will prepare school leaders across the district who work daily with students to intervene during a crisis. Funds from Northfield Bank make it possible to offer this program at a significantly reduced rate, according to Sarkos.

"The ultimate goal of this project is to bring Caring Contact’s 40-plus years of experience in active listening and suicide prevention to as many students as possible," she said. "This grant will allow us to expand our reach to classrooms, youth groups and other student-focused organizations all over our service area, helping students express themselves to others and to listen actively and compassionately when needed."

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24 in New Jersey. Each day in the United States there are an average of more than 5,200 attempted suicide by youth in grades 7-12. Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

Caring Contact works with educators and parents to bring the program to schools or youth groups. Any school administrator or parent interested in introducing the Save our Youth Program to their school, or simply wanting to learn more about the program, should contact Melinda Allen-Grote, the hotline's outreach coordinator, at 908.301.1899 or melinda.allengrote@caringcontact.org.

If you are in crisis and need someone to listen, call Caring Contact at 908-232-2880.To learn more, visit www.caringcontact.org.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Caring Contact should visit http://caringcontact.org/give-support/volunteer/. There are non-listening volunteering opportunities, as well.

Caring Contact serves Central and Northern New Jersey and is a primary responder to calls to the national suicide prevention line (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE) that originate in New Jersey. Callers also reach Caring Contact by dialing 908-232-2880. Those preferring to seek supporting through texting may text “heart” to 741-741. The hotline also provides best-in-class training to the Central and Northern New Jersey Community.

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