Suicide prevention hotline and trainer CONTACT We Care will be holding its 2014 Call of Hope Gala Thursday, October 23, at the Primavera Regency at 1060 Valley Road in Stirling, NJ, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Funds from the event will go toward keeping the hotline's volunteer listeners available for people in crisis.

Tickets are available by visiting www.contactwecare.org and clicking on the 2014 Call of Hope Gala option to the right on the home page. The cost is $150 per person or $1,200 for a table of 10.

CONTACT We Care each year responds to about 14,000 calls and texts from people in crisis, relying on more than 200 volunteers to staff its listening lines and texting services. Calls and texts come from adults and youth of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds and volunteers are trained to interact with them in a nonjudgmental manner, providing an empathetic ear and helping them to see solutions to their problems. CONTACT We Care also provides training to members of the public, including first responders, educators and the business community, in suicide awareness and prevention, active listening, mental health first aid and preventing teenage suicide.

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This year's keynote speaker at the gala will be Kevin Seung, who lost his 23-year-old son to suicide in 1999. Seung has dealt with his loss in part through the support of The Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have lost a child, and he now serves as the co-leader of the Central New Jersey chapter of the organization.

"Kevin has shared his story of loss and recovery with several CONTACT We Care training classes," said Joanne Oppelt, executive director of the hotline. "His story has helped our volunteers understand what it is like to lose a child to suicide and the importance of providing support at a time of crisis. He has helped our listeners help others dealing with similar tragic circumstances."

CONTACT We Care also is honoring two organizations and an individual at the gala. The Scarlet Listeners of Rutgers University is being honored with the Excellence in Community Service award. Scarlet Listeners is a free and confidential student-run peer counselling and referral hotline serving the Rutgers University and wider communities. The group answers calls that come into CONTACT We care at hours when no CONTACT volunteers are available.

Family & Children's Services (FACS) is being honored with the Nonprofit Partner of the Year award. The Elizabeth-based agency provides behavioral health and social services. FACS works to improve social connection within the family and CONTACT is honoring the agency for its work helping adults and youth avoid social isolation, a contributing factor to suicide.

CONTACT also is presenting the Gerald Glasser Community Partnership Award to Darielle Walsh. Walsh is an organizational consultant who helps nonprofits build capacity to better serve their communities. She has been supporting CONTACT We Care for eight years. In addition, she has served as a board member of the Westfield Area Y for 21 years, sits on the YMCA of the USA national board of directors and serves on several national YMCA committees.

CONTACT We Care 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 CONTACT by dialing 908-232-2880 or texting “CWC” to 839863.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer listener or texter at CONTACT We Care and wanting to register for the training should contact Fasano at 908.301.1899 or sue.fasano@contactwecare.org.

About CONTACT We Care

CONTACT We Care, headquartered in Westfield and with a listening hub in Morristown, is Central and Northern New Jersey’s crisis listening line, receiving more than 14,000 calls per year.  CONTACT brings comfort and hope to people in emotional distress through active, empathetic and nonjudgmental listening.  All calls are free, anonymous and confidential.  If you are in crisis and need someone to listen, call our hotline at 908-232-2880.  We are affiliated with CONTACT USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the American Association of Suicidology.  For general information about CONTACT We Care or to become a volunteer, call us at 908-301-1899 or visit our website at www.contactwecare.org.