Dedicated Volunteer Opens Hotline Service

By Rosemarie Dowell
Special to the Sentinel
October 4, 2003

TAVARES - After Dawn Pokorney moved to Tavares in April, she began searching for volunteer work at a Christian-based crisis hotline in the area.
Problem was, no matter where she called or whom she asked, she couldn't locate one anywhere in the county.
"It just left an impression on me that there was nothing like that here," who had volunteered at a hotline in Orlando for nearly for years before moving to the area."I knew that if there was people hurting in Orlando, there had to be people hurting here in Lake County, too. It bothered me that people that were having a hard time didn't have a place to call and get some help."
But the veteran nurse didn't let the disappointing news end her aspirations of helping others in the community. Instead, Pokorney got busy. The result is Lake County's first Christian-based crisis hotline, dubbed The Connection Helpline. The hotline opened last week and is staffed by specially trained volunteers seven days a week. Pokorney and her husband, Kevin, are solely funding the nonprofit organization.
"It's for anyone that's hurting and needs to talk to someone about their problems," said Pokorney, a licensed practical nurse for 31 years. All calls are confidential, and callers may remain anonymous, she said."It's our way of giving back to the community," Pokorney said. "Sometimes people don't want to tell a family member or friend their problems, but they do want or need to talk about it. That's what we're here for."
For callers who need something more than a sympathetic ear and a chance to vent problems )and volunteers are trained to identify those who do), the hotline has a long list of agencies, charities, and social-service organizations for referrals, she said.
The list includes contacts for grief support, domestic abuse, medical or health problems, unemployment, AIDS, divorce recovery, drug and alcohol abuse, hunger, Alzheimer's disease support, cancer support, financial help and many more. "Calling us is a good sign," Pokorney said. "People have to be willingto get help, and calling is a good first step."
Pokorney said she uses materials and teaching guides by Dr. William "Skip" Hunt, a Tampa psychologist and president of Christian Helplines, Inc., which helps churches and other organizations set up hotlines across the country. The Central Florida Helpline, the Orlando hotline where Pokorney previously volunteered, also used Hunt's materials she said.
"We won't tell them what to do, but we will give them options and let them make decisions on their own," she said.
For now, hotline hours are 1 to 10 p.m. daily, but once new volunteers are trained, Pokorney said, the hours will expand. The crisis line is temporarily in Pokorney's home office, but she and her husband just bought a building in Eustis and will move operations there within a few weeks, she said.
"We have nine volunteers right now, but we're training more and hope to have at least 20 within a week or two," she said.
The Connection Helpline's number is (352) 483-2800
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