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AUTHOR: Jared Pavlock, Centre Helps Basic Needs Case Manager

PHONE: (814) 237-5855

AGENCY: Centre Helps

On July 16, our nation will begin utilizing 988 as an easy to remember dial, text, and chat code for anyone experiencing a suicidal, mental health, or substance use related crisis. Contacting this number will provide callers to a direct connection with compassionate support for themselves or for loved ones they may be worried about through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. NSPL is a national network of over 200 local crisis centers equipped to help people in emotional distress or crisis. Currently, calls are routed to these centers by the area code of the caller. Locally, these calls are answered by Centre Helps.

This hotline at Centre Helps is staffed largely by volunteer counselors who go through intensive training to be qualified to answer calls. With the implementation of this new, easy to remember number, it is likely that our call volume will increase, and so, too, will our need for volunteers. Maybe you could be part of helping to meet that need by becoming a hotline counselor.

Speaking to an individual who is experiencing a crisis can be incredibly scary. Often times, we find it difficult to respond when someone shares something deeply personal with us. Before I became a volunteer at Centre Helps, I felt the same way. When presented with a crisis, I instantly searched for a solution to make my friends or family members feel better as soon as possible. If there wasn’t a solution, I was lost. If there was a solution, sometimes my friend or family member wasn’t ready to act.

The training offered by Centre Helps showed me that listening to someone’s feelings is the most important action when responding to crisis. I learned active listening techniques that allowed me to connect with the people that called in to our hotline. I have used these techniques in every single area of my life. Additionally, the training gave me insight into a variety of different areas, such as poverty, trauma, suicide, domestic violence, substance use, LGBTQ+, and multiculturalism. Our sessions prepared me to speak to a diverse community with diverse needs.

Since the training is so foundational, you don’t need to have direct counseling experience to volunteer for Centre Helps. You only need to show a desire to help others and a willingness to build skills that will help you connect with others in need.

Volunteering at Centre Helps is an opportunity to connect with your local community and see it in a new light. Before I volunteered, I had no idea how many individuals in our community were struggling financially, mentally, or both. It was truly eye-opening.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer hotline counselor, please visit the Centre Helps website at or by email Alyssa Rivera, the program manager at


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