HelpLine recently celebrated 25 years of volunteerism with Connections Volunteer Center (Connections), a program of HelpLine, during its 51st annual meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28.
In response to the ongoing pandemic, a limited number of guests attended in person at Columbus State Community College – Delaware Campus, while others watched virtually through the HelpLine page on Facebook.
The theme, “Making a Collective Difference: Celebrating 25 Years of Volunteerism,” highlighted the humble beginning of the county’s only volunteer center and the far-reaching impact of its services.
Established in 2006, Connections was formed in response to a community-needs survey that identified the desire for a central clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities. Then, primary funders SourcePoint (formally Council for Older Adults) and United Way of Delaware County, leveraged the unique position and strength of HelpLine – who was the community’s only 24/7 information and referral hub – to house the program.
Today, Connections bridges the gap between passionate volunteers and community needs by helping nonprofits focus on what matters most – people leading fulfilled and supported lives.
In its 25-year history, Connections has matched more than 19,000 volunteers and invested more than $8 million dollars back into Delaware County. In addition to partnering with over 60 nonprofits and training an average of 250 social workers, clinicians, counselors and community members each year through its professional development program, the center has also seen several shifts happen most notably with the onset of COVID-19.
“The pandemic dealt a whole new playing hand to us as a volunteer center,” said HelpLine Executive Director Susan Hanson. “We’ve had to rethink safety, maximize protective measures of in-person volunteers, make virtual volunteering as impactful as in-person, leverage technology to find ways to market a diversity of opportunities – including professional development and all while figuring out how to continue with integrating virtual and in-person experiences.”
The longevity and sustainable nature of the center was credited to the former and current staff who were recognized during the meeting. Suzanne Pingry, Program Director, expressed gratitude to the Connections Community Engagement Coordinators, Colleen Dennis and Elaine Miller.
“We couldn’t have done anything without dedicated and devoted staff,” said Pingry. “We’re fortunate to have a team that believes in what we do and brings that mission-centric enthusiasm to work each day.”
The meeting also featured keynote speaker Deanna Brant, executive director of Delaware-Morrow Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, who stressed the point that behavioral health care is health care.
“Mental and physical health are equally important, said Brant. “The global investment gap in services for mental illness versus physical illness is significant; persistent gaps have existed in the access and receipt of high-quality mental health and addiction care and recovery supports.”
Brant stressed the need for financial, infrastructure, service capacity, workforce and local investment to close the gap.
The Lucille Ubben SARN Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Melinda Bodenhorn, an active volunteer since 2019.
Shelia Hiddleson and the Delaware Public Health District were named the Katherine Gharrity Community Service Award for their ongoing work and commitment to education and coordination throughout COVID-19.
Staff awards included Kathleen Vance, certified hotline resource specialist, who celebrated 25 years of service and Community Engagement Coordinator Colleen Dennis, who achieved 10 years of service. Jamie Fairfield, prevention educator; Sarah Lee Jefferson, suicide prevention manager; Lauren MacDade, sexual assault and victim services director; RJ Shuman, suicide prevention educator; and Breana Szabo, hotline resource specialist, all celebrated five-year service milestones.
The meeting culminated with the business portion, which welcomed the FY2021-2022 slate of officers for the HelpLine Board of Directors: Chair Adam Moore, Vice Chair Jane Martin, Secretary Julie Duhigg and Treasurer Erik Vandeveld.e
To learn more about HelpLine programs and services, visit https://helplinedelmor.org or donate by texting helpline50 to 41444.
If you or someone you know needs support, information, or a referral to a health or human service, contact us on our free, confidential 24-hour line at 2-1-1, 1.800.684.2324, or text helpline to 898211.
Submitted by HelpLine.