MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ - Here’s a New Jersey riddle for you.  What helps thousands and thousands of people every year, is available every hour of every day, and works anonymously….give up?  CONTACT of Ocean & Monmouth Counties.

That’s right.  CONTACT provides a free service, trained volunteers, 24/7 telephone “contact” for those among us who are despondent, desperate, abandoned, or suffering the pain and confusion of loneliness, or just need someone to listen.

Funded by a range of supporters including United Way of Ocean County, private and corporate grants, and individual donations, CONTACT maintains a staff of extensively trained and empathetic volunteers.  These CONTACT volunteers provide a 24/7 phone line, and in some cases a life- line, to anyone who calls 732 – 240 -6100// 609 - 693 - 5834. This free service necessarily must function with a high degree of confidentiality and discretion.

Specifically, the location of the call center(s) and the staffers’ and Callers’ identities remain undisclosed.  Put simply, it’s hard to glamorize or put a catchy spin on what CONTACT does.  But it does quite a lot and, like so many non-profit organizations today, often finds itself struggling for support.

Executive Director, Carol Weshnak, who began with CONTACT as a volunteer listener over 25 years ago, explains that up to 30,000 calls to CONTACT per year run the full range of personal difficulties.  According to Weshnak,  they  range from physical and emotional abuse, suicide prevention and/or intervention, grief and loss to impending homelessness, utility assistance and loneliness.   No matter the issue, the trained volunteers provide active listening and, when necessary, referrals and interventions.

The volunteer listeners complete a 15 – session training program followed by an apprenticeship, which prepares them to serve the many CONTACT callers. CONTACT’s philosophy is that “Within each of us is the wisdom to answer our own problems, strength to bear our own troubles, and the ability to live with dignity.”  That’s the CONTACT way. CONTACT volunteers approach each of the 500+ callers per week  with unconditional positive regard.   If you are interested in joining the next training session, which begins on February 16, 2011,  please call the CONTACT business office – 732 – 240 -6104

CONTACT of Ocean & Monmouth Counties holds two major fundraisers each year:  A Spring luncheon with fashion show and gift auction and a Fall Entertainment luncheon with vendors.  Additional fundraisers are held throughout the year.  In 2010, a successful bus trip to QVC Studio and Outlet, plus all day long events at Yo Factor and Mulligan’s in Toms River, were well attended.   A variety of new events are planned for the future.

For 2011, CONTACT’s 26th Annual Spring Luncheon and Gift Auction will be held on Saturday, April 16th at the Ramada Inn in Toms River with COLDWATER CREEK providing the fashions.  For more information, please call 732 – 240 -6104.

Overall, since 1975, CONTACT of Ocean & Monmouth Counties remains a well organized and well administered program with an astounding track record of consistently and effectively providing services to those in need.  So, here’s another New Jersey riddle:  What makes a huge difference without making a big splash?  You got it……. CONTACT of Ocean and Monmouth Counties.