22 Jul Meet Jeffrey Feldman
How did you get involved with Caring Contact?
I first got involved 10-12 years ago. The former executive director was a friend and I listened to him talking about the organization. After a while I realized that this was an organization I would like to get involved with myself.
What attracted you to the mission?
The nature of the work that Caring Contact was doing appealed to me; involving yourselves with people who needed somebody to talk to. I thought it was quite a useful function. I had already become an advocate for the state and I do a lot of listening work at long term care facilities and nursing homes. And I came to realize that people in that age group needed someone to talk to, very often they have no one to talk to. The work at Caring Contact resonated with me. My first involvement was as a donor and then I decided I wanted to be more involved and then became a board member. I was a board member for six years.
What motivates you to stay involved?
Having been a board member, I got to see a lot more of what happens in a small organization. I really do see the importance of the work Caring Contact does and have wanted to continue to commit and stay involved in any way I could. That is also why I continue to give as a donor. The good work and a good working board are essential.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?
Our focus on the community of callers who reach out to us is the most important work we do. In turn, by supporting the callers, we are supporting the community as well. Many of the callers have family and to some extent we are helping them as well.
What kind of ways do you think we could be expanding our reach?
That is the most important question. I think we could be doing more in reaching the 40-60 year olds; the increased suicide rate in that age group is of concern. We are reaching that community now, but just not enough of them. I would like to see us focus on this group.
Ten years from now, as a donor what do you hope Caring Contact will have achieved?
I think the thing I hope we will have achieved is making a real difference in that 40-60 year old age group. I would like to see the number of calls we take from that group go up substantially. I would also like to see Caring Contact continue to expand its role in the community. We need to create more visibility in the community and develop creative ways for people to “experience” the work we do.
What do you hope Caring Contact will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
There is absolutely a need for our listening services and perhaps even more so now. I keep going back to the 40-60 year old group. I think it is a group of people that very few people focus on. You can find many organizations that provide suicide prevention services, teen services, veteran and senior services. No organization seems to want to focus on folks of middle age. No organization is focusing on this particular age group of 40-60 year olds. This is a group that may be having financial problems, home, children, aging parent problems. It is almost as if people say, “They are adults. They should be able to take good care of themselves.” It doesn’t always work that way.
What do you tell others about us? How do you describe this organization to others?
I tell people we are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and that immediately resonates with them. People understand that very quickly. Even though only a small percentage of our calls are suicide calls, I tell people how all of the calls we take are important calls. Even more important are the number of other calls we take which help people to just live their lives or prevent a suicide.
What makes you proud to be associated to Caring Contact?
As a former board member, what makes me proud is that we are still in the community, 40 years later. During the great recession, a great many grass roots organizations did not survive. And it is amazing that we were able to survive and grow with the support and energy of some amazing people.
On a feeling level, what is our greatest gift to the community?
We listen. That we are a listening community. That is a gift. That people who do hear about us and do have a problem have someone to reach out to. That is the gift we give. Caring Contact is also providing a gift to the volunteer listener. Caring Contact allows folks to expand their own lives, go beyond their own immediate family to actually help others; which is one of the greatest gifts you can give anybody.