Suicide prevention and crisis intervention hotline CONTACT We Care last evening welcomed in its newest class of volunteer listeners and texters while also honoring veteran volunteers who have made exceptional contributions to the organization and its callers.

CONTACT We Care each month responds to more than 1,400 calls and texts from people in crisis and relies on more than 200 trained volunteers to provide an empathetic ear to help them see they have options, according to Joanne Oppelt, the hotline’s executive director.

“Our volunteers are our lifeblood,” she said. “They give so much of themselves to help people in crisis. Research shows a decrease in feelings of emotional distress and suicide both during and following calls to crisis hotlines and our volunteers provide our callers with truly heartfelt support. They save lives.”

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According to Oppelt, the work and commitment of CONTCT’s volunteers also enabled the hotline to increase the number of calls and texts it handled by 32 percent in 2013, extend its texting marketing campaign into 45 schools and four nonprofits serving youth, open a new listening hub in Morristown and add Mental Health First Aid to its training arsenal.

The annual dinner is a way CONTACT’s staff and board say thank you to their volunteers and welcome new ones, Oppelt said. Last night the hotline welcomed 23 new volunteers who in the past year completed 60 hours of training and mentorship under a veteran volunteer and now take calls on their own.

CONTACT also recognized volunteer Bob John of Westfield with the Ellen Anthony Award, given to a volunteer who embodies enthusiasm and dedication and participates in a wide variety of agency activities. He has been a volunteer with CONTACT since 2007.

“I have always appreciated people in my life who have been there for me when I have gone through some rough patches,” John said. “I recognized how important it is to have someone to speak to and I realized there are people who don’t have someone like I did. I wanted to help those people so they have someplace to turn.”

CONTACT also honored Laurie Feinberg of Westfield with the Caring and Sharing Award, presented to a volunteer who has gone over and beyond expectations. She has been a volunteer with CONTACT since 2009.

“I am not here to change the world,” Feinberg said. “I am changing the world because I am here listening to one caller at a time.”

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer listener or texter at CONTACT We Care should contact Sue Fasano, director of programs at the hotline, at 908.301.1899 or

People who might think about volunteering to be a listener but are unsure of their ability to handle such a responsibility should not be concerned, according to Fasano. Volunteers attend 60 hours of training and then are teamed with an experienced listener before taking calls solo, she said.

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.

About CONTACT We Care

CONTACT We Care is Central and Northern New Jersey’s crisis listening line, receiving more than 17,000 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