Volunteering For These Hotlines Is Time Well Spent

As the holiday season and a new year are approaching, time off and New Year's resolutions may help inspire a newfound commitment to volunteering. One of the many wonderful ways in which you can dedicate your time to a good cause consists of volunteering to answer calls for hotlines. Hotlines exist for many different issues and it is highly likely that there is at least one out there that matches your skills and interests.

Hotline volunteering is an important activity for many reasons. First and foremost, hotlines serve to help people in some type of crisis or situation that requires urgent and expert attention. While the type of crisis or situation may vary, the overall purpose remains the same: to immediately put callers in touch with people who will listen attentively to them and who are trained to address their needs, usually 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hotlines are widely used resources across the country; indeed, in the first 10 years of its existence, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline fielded more than 5 million calls.

In addition to directly making a positive impact on others through fielding hotline calls, serving as a hotline volunteer is beneficial for a variety of other reasons as well. The 24/7 nature of hotlines allows you to contribute your time and skills in a way that works with your schedule and also helps the organization fill out its own. Furthermore, the specialized training you will receive as a hotline volunteer will make you even more adept at helping others in a field for which you are passionate. Additionally, serving as a hotline volunteer could eventually help you find other paid and unpaid opportunities to serve in a similar field through connections made through your volunteer experience.

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And, of course, the most impactful experience you can have as a hotline volunteer is to make a difference in someone's life, whether it is big or small. So, if you are interested in using some of your holiday vacation time to start volunteering for a hotline (or want to commit to doing so as a New Year's resolution), check out the following seven hotlines for a good place to start. Just keep in mind that many hotlines require you to fill out volunteer applications and complete training, so the sooner you get started, the better.

1. National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (via RAINN)

The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline connects callers with local affiliates in their area from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). The affiliate listens and offers support to the caller and can also provide guidance on local medical services and legal options. You can find out how to volunteer for your local community affiliate hotline here.

2. Homelessness Hotlines

Many states have governmental agencies and local NGOs that have homelessness hotlines for which you can volunteer; these hotlines help homeless individuals access shelter, food, support, and other services. While there is no comprehensive list of hotlines state-by-state, this directory of homelessness organizations by state from the National Coalition for the Homeless is a good place to start.

3. The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project seeks to provide support and guidance to LGBTQ youth for a variety of issues, including coming out, depression, and suicidal thoughts. You can sign up to train and volunteer for Trevor Lifeline, a call-in hotline, if you live in New York or Los Angeles. If you live outside of these areas, you can also sign up to be a TrevorChat or TrevorText Volunteer, which provides similar services to LGBTQ youth via instant and text messaging. While it unfortunately seems like there are no volunteer training opportunities left for 2016, the Trevor Project is certainly an important volunteer hotline option to keep in mind for 2017.

4. Domestic Violence Shelter Helplines

Domestic violence shelter hotlines provide counseling, guidance, and practical information to individuals fleeing or seeking to flee domestic violence situations. These hotlines are typically locally-based and specific to individual cities. If you are interested in volunteering for a domestic violence hotline, you can locate your local office's contact information on this list compiled by the Feminist Majority Foundation.

5. Crisis Text Line

If you are more comfortable volunteering for a texting hotline instead of a phone hotline, then the Crisis Text Line could be a good fit. Crisis Text Line provides support and empathetic listening via text message 24 hours a day for anyone who is facing a crisis. You can fill out the Crisis Text Line application on their website, and, if accepted, you can also complete the required training online.

6. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline And Lifeline Network Crisis Centers

Suicide prevention lifeline counselors provide support and resources for people in distress and contemplating suicide. The national website provides a link to help you locate hotline volunteer opportunities in your local community.

7. Trans Lifeline

Trans Lifeline is a hotline run "by transgender people for transgender people." The hotline is particularly geared towards transgender people who are experiencing a crisis, but also offers more general support to those desiring it. You can fill out a volunteer application for Trans Lifeline here.

Overall, any one of these hotlines — and many others around the country — would be incredibly worthy and important places to dedicate your time over the coming holiday season and new year. Thus, if you are contemplating getting involved as a hotline volunteer, take the leap and apply as soon as possible so you can start contributing your time and skills and, most importantly, helping those in need.