Someone to Listen, Someone to Care

By James Combs
Today Magazines
Wed, December 17, 2003

While living in Orlando, Dawn Pokorney volunteered at the Central Florida Helpline for nearly three years, helping troubled people face and overcome their problems. But when she moved to Tavares last April, she was bothered that there wasn't a similar hotline in the area."I was distressed because I knew there are a lot of people in this county who have problems and need someone to talk to," she said.

So in September, she launched The Connection Helpline, a Christian-based telephone crisis intervention service. The organization's trained volunteers help people dealing with issues such as depression, financial troubles, drug abuse, suicide and divorce. "It's a free service," said Dawn, whose husband, Kevin, serves as Associate Director. "All of the calls are totally confidential. We don't tell callers what to do, but we do present possible options. And we have a huge resource directory of various agencies that we can refer them to." Dawn emphasized that callers do not have to be in a crisis situation to contact the service. "If they call us early enough in their particular problem we can possibly keep the problem from escalating," she said. "We just want to make a positive difference in someone's life."

Dawn trains her volunteers through a system developed by Dr. Skip Hunt, founder and president of Christian Helplines, Inc. who has worked in the field of crisis counseling, ministry development and lay training. Along with the training, volunteers receive a series of videos and training manuals. "We always pray to God to give us words to say to our callers," she said. "God knows them better than we do, and He can impress us with what to say."

In addition to the hotline, Dawn and Kevin developed an interactive web site where troubled people can make prayer requests or simply ask questions. "We want to expand beyond the community and reach out to the world," Dawn said."When our volunteers aren't taking phone calls they can answer emails and respond to prayer requests."

The Pokorneys are supporting the hotline out-of-pocket and are trying to create community awareness that it exists. They hope to expand the program to 30 volunteers. "So far, God has opened every door we needed," Dawn said. "It has been exciting to see God work through our lives."

The hotline can be reached at (352) 483-2800 and is available from 1-10pm seven days a week.
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