BERKELEY HEIGHTS—In a life devoted to Christian education and missionary work, Carolyn Davis of Berkeley Heights has traveled the world from the Ukraine to Uganda to help those in need. She has tended to the needy, provided compassionate care, and trained residents of Senegal, Guatemala, Ukraine and Uganda to teach and minister to children.
But three years ago she discovered a special place, right in her own backyard, where she is able to make a dramatic difference and even save lives. Davis signed up for CONTACT We Care’s volunteer training class and answers calls to the Westfield based 24-hour crisis hotline.
“It was right after Hurricane Katrina – I really wanted to do something to help others,” said the 66-year-old retired grandmother of seven. “That’s when I signed up for the volunteer training. For me volunteering for CONTACT We Care is a way of showing God’s love to other people by listening, encouraging and supporting them.”
A secular hotline, founded in 1975, CONTACT is devoted to offering the gift of non-judgmental listening to individuals throughout New Jersey. The organization was recognized as the Best Statewide Volunteer Organization by the NJ Governor’s Office of Volunteerism.
“When I first went to the training class, I wasn’t sure I could make a difference in this way,” said Davis. “The training stresses that you can’t really change people – you are really there to listen. At the end of each shift on the hotline I usually feel really good because I’ve truly been able to help someone.”
Davis originally discovered the power of listening years earlier when she launched a personal outreach program through her church. “When my children were young and I was at home, I started calling isolated members of the church – reaching out to offer them friendship. I would say ‘Hi – how are you doing?’ and they would be so happy to talk and open up. They would share stories of depression, divorce – their troubles. They would say you are more help to me than my counselor.”
Born and raised in south Jersey, Davis earned a degree in Bible and Christian Education from Northeastern Bible College in Essex Fells, and went on to earn a Master’s degree in education administration and supervision at Kean University. She also holds New Jersey certifications in elementary education, supervision and administration. Her twenty-five year career in education includes long stints at Long Hill Chapel in Chatham and Mendham Hills Chapel where she developed curriculum, counseled parents on parenting issues, and focused on making learning fun.
“You have to accept that there are limitations to the work on the CONTACT hotline,” said Davis, who recently handled suicide calls from three different 20 year-old college students during three recent shifts on the line. “In most suicide cases I’ve been able to resolve it by contracting the caller for safety or calling in an emergency screener who goes out to the caller. But in some cases, you don’t really know how things end up.”
Married to her high school sweetheart, Edward, Davis has three grown children, Stephanie, 38, Brian, 36, and Caryn, 31 and seven grandchildren. Son Brian followed in his mother’s footsteps and serves as a missionary in Senegal.
“Once a year I pack my bags and travel overseas for a missionary trip,” said Davis. “I fill my retirement with grandkids, kids, church, travel, water sports, and volunteer work.”
For more information about volunteering for CONTACT We Care or to register for the hotline’s upcoming volunteer training class beginning Feb. 17, call 1-908-301-1899 or visit the website www.contactwecare.org
Photo courtesy of CONTACT We Care
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