FANWOOD—Marianne Kranz has always loved history … and stories. She once dreamed of making documentary films that weave together bits of history in order to tell a story. But after switching from a career in radio, TV, and video communications to one in human services, she has discovered that each and every individual has their own compelling and interesting story.
Especially those people she talks to in her volunteer work at CONTACT We Care’s 24-hour caring and crisis hotline.
“It’s so rewarding to know I was able to spend time with the caller and listen to their story,” said the 48 year-old Fanwood resident. “So many of the callers to the hotline feel they have nowhere else to turn – At CONTACT, we listen… we take the time.”
On a daily basis Kranz makes a difference in people’s lives through her work with the elderly as the Director of Volunteers, Meals on Wheels and Home Support Services for Sage Eldercare in Summit. But for more than five years she has volunteered eight hours a month for CONTACT We Care, answering calls from men, women and teens who are lonely, depressed, stressed or suicidal.
“I find that people want someone to listen to them, someone to take the time,” said the wife and mother of two sons, Danny, 22 and Jeff, 18. “Time is what prevents suicide.”
Born and raised outside Philadelphia, Kranz describes her childhood as turbulent. “The qualities that made my father a good director for PBS TV made him a tough father. He was, and still is, very directive,” said Kranz.
A self-described “tom boy” with one older brother, Kranz’s parents divorced when she was in middle school. Her father’s job took him to Delaware and her mother remarried and moved to Utah. Kranz felt abandoned and hurt. She ended up living at a friend’s house in order to finish her junior and senior years of high school.
“My friend’s mom took in lots of students so it was a very strange and chaotic place to live.”
At age 17 Kranz met her husband Tom, when she began interning at WCAU talk radio in Philadelphia. He was the assignment editor there and Kranz was screening calls for a health talk show. “I guess we could say that was the beginning of my phone work listening to people’s stories,” she said.
Kranz was hired on as the producer of the show – becoming the youngest producer at CBS radio. Not long after she registered at Temple University and earned a degree in Communications.
The difficult and trying times in her life, including periods of unemployment, her mother’s early death, and the challenges of parenthood enable Kranz to connect and empathize with the callers.
“There are some people who call every day and you really get to know them well,” said Kranz. “With those callers it’s rewarding to be there for them, listen to them, and help them get to the next step in their day.”
Kranz also handles calls from individuals who are concerned about the safety and welfare of friends or loved ones. “They are worried about how to talk to a friend who might be suicidal. I encourage them to talk about it. It’s so important to talk openly about suicide. Stop and take the time with that person.”
Kranz comes to her volunteer work at CONTACT with a strong commitment to community service. She remembers clearly that drive down Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, many years ago, when she first realized she had to do something – take action. Her two young sons had just witnessed a homeless woman pull a soda can out of the garbage and drink from it. Her boys’ laughter launched her on a path to make community service a major part of her life.
She launched Kids Care through the Scotch Plains Fanwood schools, served on the Fanwood Communications/Volunteerism Committee, and focused on getting involved.
Now Kranz looks at her sons with great pride. Both have followed in their father’s footsteps and become emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) with the Fanwood Rescue Squad.
“Volunteering at CONTACT is a lot like being an EMT for the head,” said Kranz. We don’t have control over the final outcome, but we are able to provide an emergency service in the moment and help the caller feel better.”
As a volunteer Kranz says she is often inspired by the callers. “We talk to the callers about taking baby steps in dealing with their problems,” said Kranz. “I think to myself, if he/she can do it – I can too.”
For more information about volunteering or making a donation to CONTACT We Care, call 908-301-1899 or visit the organization’s website at www.contactwecare.org.
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