Monday, September 16, 2019
Crisis Hotline Ramps Up Ways to Help Callers Help Themselves
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Tammy Eaton Davis sells real estate and holds craft parties when she’s not addressing crises through the Crisis Hotline.
 
Monday, May 20, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Mike Murphy looked over his audience and recounted how he was driving down East Fork Road when his passenger noted he was going 95 miles per hour.

“I looked over and said, ‘Well, so are you.’ ”

“I’m doing another benefit next month that’s near and dear to my heart—it’s for the underprivileged kids of Gimlet,” he added, garnering more laughs.

Murphy, long known as Sun Valley’s Funny Guy, was doing a benefit for the Crisis Hotline, serving up  laughs on behalf of those who go through times when they can’t bring themselves to laugh.

The organization, which fields calls 24 hours a day from callers in distress and those looking for resources, was formed in 1987. It embarked on a new chapter in February as Bellevue Council Member Tammy Eaton Davis took over the reins from a retiring Sher Foster.

In a few short months Davis has revamped the phone system. She’s started the process to get the nonprofit certified with Contact USA, which will elevate the organization’s training. And she is currently recruiting both English and Spanish-speaking volunteers to undergo 20 hours of free training starting May 28 and running through June 29.

Until recently, Davis noted, volunteers had to carry around a dedicated cellphone while on call. Now the calls can be programmed to their individual phones so they don’t have to trade off the designated phone at the beginning and ending of their shift.

If the volunteer on call is unable to pick up a call, the call rolls over to another volunteer’s phone and another’s until someone picks it up.

“Our motto is that no call goes unanswered,” said Davis, who is attempting to start a Spanish-speaking line.

Phil Gilbert, a longtime volunteer with the Crisis Hotline, got his start in San Francisco where he had to physically go to a call center to field calls.

Here, he’s taken calls from children who tell him their mother and father are fighting and they’re wondering what they can do. And he’s fielded calls from people who need to find resources for a neighbor dealing with a crisis.

Some days he’ll get three to four calls in a row. Other times, nothing.

“I can’t find a rhyme nor a reason why you get a bunch of call at some times and none at others, although we do get more calls between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” he said. “Oftentimes, people have pent-up anger at family. Or, the holidays don’t go as well as they thought they should.

“I enjoy talking to people. I feel I can help, and I’m a good listener. My job is to help them help themselves.”

Sher Foster ran the hotline from 2006 to 2018. During that time the hotline served more than 12,000 people and it started a variety of programs, including the My Life Matters program intended to cut the rate of suicide among teens in the valley.

In March, Davis said, the hotline fielded 81 calls—a lot. And that’s a lot.

“But I love it. It feels so good when someone calls and you know you’re able to help them. We know we’ve gotten into a good place with our caller.”

Davis has served in a variety of roles that she said have provided her with the tools for running the Crisis Hotline.

After studying at New England College, she loaded up her Honda in 1995 and drove 2,777 miles from her childhood stomping grounds in Fall River, Mass., to Bellevue sight unseen.

“It was a vulnerable moment but an amazing time,” she recounted. “At that time, I was the typical New Englander. I talked fast. I walked fast. My attitude was: You’re either on the bus or you’re getting run over. I soon learned: You need to slow it down.”

But Wood River Valley residents were forgiving--and welcoming.

“I remember going into Java and thinking, ‘What am I doing? I don’t know anyone.’ But people told me, ‘My home is open if you need a place to stay.’ I could have been an axe murderer for all they knew, but I immediately felt like I belonged.”

Davis’ grandfather was one of the first two police officers in Rhode Island, and from him Davis learned how to speak to people and how to have a commanding presence by being herself and by being truthful. He inspired her to go into law enforcement in her zeal to become what she calls “part of the solution.” She soon took over the civil department because of her education in paralegal studies.

Recently she got her Master’s Degree in mediation at Boise State University, which she has put to use working with people in small claims court in hopes of getting them to come to terms before they go before a judge.

Volunteering with the Blaine County Court has been empowering.

“We’re not there to solve people’s problems but we give them the tools they require to address their problems themselves,” she said.

Davis is a consummate volunteer in other ways, as well. A Bellevue council member for nearly a dozen years, she helped the Senior Connection with its Capital Campaign. She’s helped start grassroots projects like a Community Thanksgiving Dinner. She created a nonprofit to help renovate Bellevue’s Memorial Park. And she founded and runs the volunteer nonprofit Building Balanced Communities, which raises money for various nonprofits through such events as the Bellevue Haunted Forest.

The owner of Studio 213, formerly The Bead Shop, has a special empathy for those struggling to weather crises.

“My life has been one crisis after crisis, some of which have been horrific--like a car wreck, in which I broke every bone in my body. But these things have given me the ability to empathize because I know how I felt,” she said.

 "I just want everyone to be safe,” she added. “I feel really fulfilled taking the Crisis Hotline into the future. We have a core of great volunteers—nothing is possible without the volunteers. And certification is so important.”

NEED HELP? Contact the Crisis Hotline at 208-788-3596.

WANT TO HELP? The training classes, which begin May 28, are open to the public and explore such subjects as trauma, substance abuse, depression, domestic violence, mental illness and suicide.

They will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Studio 213 in Bellevue with a couple field trips. The training is interactive and part of the certification process required of the American Association of Suicidology and Contact USA.

Not all classes are required for volunteers, and prior education/experience can be factored in. A few spots are left.

“These classes assist with building excellent listening and communication skills,” said Tammy Davis. “You will see a difference in your own personal life, as well as your professional relationships.”

To learn more, call 208-788-0735. Or, visit www.thecrisishotline.org or email tammy@crisishotlineidaho.org.

 

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