From an agency that deals with some of life’s hardest experiences, we get a glimpse of the best in people. CONTACT of Burlington County is an organization that runs two vital services for the region: a suicide and crisis helpline and 24-hour support for victims of sexual assault. Those who reach out to the agency are in dire need, and those responding to them are quiet super-heroes dedicated to rescuing lives.
CONTACT of Burlington County is part of CONTACT USA, an organization started by a Texas minister in 1965 based on a clergy-initiated program in Australia. By 1971, a national CONTACT USA office was established with 18 centers in operation. CONTACT of Burlington County was initiated in Moorestown in 1972. Today CONTACT USA has expanded beyond its religious-based roots to 54 centers across the country, with thousands of paid staff and volunteers responding to over 2.5 million calls/chats/texts per year. It is the only accrediting entity in the United States devoted solely to establishing best practice standards of service for crisis helplines.
CONTACT of Burlington County has called Moorestown home for many years, continuously providing emotional support to individuals ages 13 and up in crisis. In 1998 the center expanded to include a second service dedicated specifically to assist victims of sexual abuse.
“Anyone in the region who calls the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network helpline will be routed to volunteers at CONTACT Burlington County,” said Executive Director Theresa Tobey. “And it’s important for people understand that all of our services are completely confidential and free of charge to the community.”
CONTACT of Burlington County also offers outreach and education seminars to small and large groups, providing the community with violence and suicide prevention education.
A phone bank supported by specially designed computer programming operates in the CONTACT Burlington County crisis call center (856)234–8888. It is staffed by carefully trained volunteers who assist a diverse group of callers ranging from those suffering from mental illness to those in suicide crisis, to those undergoing homelessness or abuse. The volunteers respond with emotional support, information and assisted referrals to a variety of organizations designed to help specific needs and have historically answered approximately 25,000 calls a year.
When victims of sexual abuse dial the sexual assault services helpline (856)600–4800, local volunteers for CONTACT of Burlington County, on call 24 hours a day, promptly respond. They not only provide support over the phone but act as advocates coordinating with health care and law enforcement professionals and will meet with victims at any time of the day or night at hospitals or police stations. In addition, free, short-term professional sexual assault counseling sessions are offered to victims and their significant others. Last year, the organization provided more than 100 accompaniments at hospitals and over 275 training sessions.
CONTACT of Burlington County averages 100 volunteers on the Crisis Helpline, serving as Sexual Assault Advocates and as board members. The volunteers are trained and certified according to national standards, which involves a series of training sessions, classroom work and a period of apprenticeship. The intensive training equips volunteers to confidently assist people in crisis, and the experience can be life-changing for those answering the calls. Volunteer training classes for the crisis helpline and for sexual assault advocates will be conducted this fall. People interested in becoming a Crisis Helpline Specialist or a Sexual Violence Advocate can call (856)234–5484, ext. 101, email email@example.com, or visit the organization’s website: www.contactburlco.org.
Although CONTACT of Burlington County is financially supported through funding from the State of New Jersey, grants and foundations, the organization also depends upon contributions from local churches, organizations, individuals and special fundraising events for its services to thrive.
Everyone is invited to attend the organization’s fun and entertaining autumn fundraiser on Oct.18 “The Godfather’s Italian Friends Dinner.” The evening includes an interactive theater production including comedy, music, dancing and more, as well as a gourmet meal. Sponsorships and individual tickets are available now on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-godfather-tickets-66230762995. For more information call (856)234–5484, ext. 200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moorestown Business Association established its Spotlight program to highlight member businesses and organizations who contribute to the community in a meaningful way. CONTACT of Burlington County not only exceeds that criteria though its assistance and support to thousands of people, the Moorestown-based center has been doing so for almost half a century. Tobey, who has served as Executive Director since 2000, considers her work with the organization a privilege.
“It gives those of us who work and volunteer here an opportunity to improve our corner of the world. And there is so much need,” Tobey said.
If you or someone you know is feeling depressed or needs help, call CONTACT’s Crisis Helpline (856)234–8888 or 1(800)273–8255. Sexual Assault Services are immediately available 24/7 at (856)600–4800.