News : Telecare Burlington Hangs Up, Distress Centre Oakville Answers
Nov 11, 2014 -- Six thousand telephone calls per year. That’s how many calls Distress Centre Oakville expects to take after its counterpart, Telecare Burlington, hangs up for the last time on Dec. 6.
The Distress Centre and Telecare Burlington both take calls from people in crisis. From someone having an emotional breakdown to desperate people just wanting someone to talk to, these services offer an attentive ear to listen to those in need.
The main difference between the two is that Telecare runs on a purely volunteer basis, while the Distress Centre is a non-profit organization with employees as well as volunteers.
For Telecare, the purely volunteer model isn’t sustainable anymore.
"We’ve been [in] a struggle over the last few years to attract and retain enough volunteers to maintain our 24/7 coverage," said Simone Robbins, who chairs the executive committee for Telecare Burlington. The organization had trouble keeping people available to take calls, but also fill leadership positions.
"With the service we’re operating, not being there 24/7, it’s almost not ethical for us to continue," Robbins said.
The organization didn’t want to have a situation in which someone in crisis gave them a call only to find nobody was on the other side.
"It is just not okay to operate a service like that if you can’t maintain that coverage," she said.
Robbins had few options: change the way the centre operates, merge with Oakville, or shut down entirely. Many people in the organization were long-time members who were heavily invested in Telecare. They weren’t happy about the choices. Following a very emotional meeting, the organization decided to shut its doors.
The Distress Centre in Oakville responded to the news with a recruitment drive.
The goal is to double the number of volunteers in order to accommodate the increased demand from Burlington.
"We know there are a lot of callers who have been calling Telecare Burlington and we didn’t want them to be left without any options for people to be there for them," said Sally Fazal, co-chair of the board for Distress Centre Oakville.
Fazal said the organization is looking for around 60 volunteers as part of the drive to increase their capacity.
Fazal says anyone and everyone who wants to be part of the Distress Centre’s mission to operate the open line of communication for those in need is welcome to volunteer.
"A lot of [the volunteers] are in the caring professions, they might be social workers or teachers," Fazal added.
The organization accepts people from all walks of life and also offers training and mentorship to those that work the phone lines to prepare volunteers for what they might encounter on the phone.
People who want to volunteer can do so on the Distress Centre’s website at www.dcoakville.com.
The next round of training classes for the centre starts in January, so prospective volunteers are asked to apply early so police record checks can be completed.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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