Contact Cape-Atlantic has been serving Atlantic and Cape May counties for more than 40 years. The company, which started out as a crisis hotline in 1973, has since abandoned the crisis hotline and adopted one that looks after the senior community.
Contact Cape-Atlantic, which is part of the national organization Contact USA and a partner agency of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, is a free telephone reassurance program for elderly, disabled or isolated people in the community.
"We made over 80,000 calls last year," board President Patti Smith, of Marmora, said.
Contact services 220 clients every day. A volunteer will call the client at home to make sure everything is going well. If the client does not answer, the volunteer will keep calling them for as long as an hour. If there is still no answer, the volunteer will call a secondary contact who knows the client, who will then go over to the client's house.
"We're a piece in the puzzle to help keep them independent," Executive Director Ann Magee, of Ocean View, said.
Magee said that sometimes a senior will be involved in an accident, such as a fall, when home alone and be unable to reach a phone. In this way, the calls that the volunteers at Contact make can be life-saving.
"We are the largest program in (Contact USA) out of about 45," Magee said. "Volunteer retention is terrific. We have one volunteer who's been with us over 25 years, and most over 10 years."
The program has about 150 volunteers. Magee and Smith said that their program is especially rewarding because some of the clients only hear from one person a day - the Contact volunteers.
Jane Swilky, of Linwood, has been volunteering for the organization for almost a year. Swilky does most of her shifts in the office, but it is possible for volunteers to make calls from home.
"I lost my mom about two-and-a-half years ago to Parkinson's, and she was in and out of nursing homes and assisted living," Swilky said. "I just got comfortable speaking with seniors. It's a wonderful organization."
Swilky said mainly she was looking to give back and volunteer.
"A lot of times, talking to seniors on the phone, our volunteers develop a relationship," Smith said. "They say, 'I've been waiting for your call.' Often, this is the only call they get all day."
Contact Cape-Atlantic tries to hold one fundraiser per month. Their upcoming one is their 40th anniversary celebration, their "Ruby Anniversary" from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 22 at Sofia Restaurant in Margate. Tickets are $50. The event is open to the public and will feature a buffet dinner, a cash bar, and a silent auction. There will be a raffle drawing for a $2,000 ruby necklace that was donated to the organization.
"This is a celebration to recognize all the volunteers that have helped over the years," Smith said. "We're asking everybody to wear red."
To find out more about Contact Cape-Atlantic visit contactcapeatlantic.org.
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