Telephone ministry expanded to meet pandemic demand
North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry

Telephone ministry expanded to meet pandemic demand

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When the North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry began its Hope Line service in the summer of 2019 to address social isolation and loneliness among older adults, no one imagined the societal changes that would occur nine months later. Over the course of a few days in March of this year, calls to the Hope Line increased exponentially. To meet the demand, the ministry opened the service on weekends and added two lines.

Now open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Hope Line continues to receive more than 100 calls each week from older adults — many of whom have been living in isolation for years. Other callers are new to the experience because of self-isolation measures or stay-at-home orders, many of whom are now alone and also experiencing feelings of fear and uncertainty.

NCBAM team members and volunteers are trained in evidence-based health coach techniques that focus on listening and allowing callers to have a safe space to express themselves.

Knowing that many people most in need of a friendly call service may not initiate a call, the Hope Line now offers outbound calls. The service is free and can be requested by calling 877-506-2226 or by emailing ncbam@bchfam ily.org. A link will be sent to sign up for the “friendly call” service.

Call recipients must be 65 or older and live in North Carolina. Requests can be made by people themselves or by a family member or caregiver.

Whitney Brooks, a board-certified integrative health coach through Duke Integrative Medicine, developed the training and teaches all Hope Line communicators.

When the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, Brooks responded with extra guidance.

“Many of the incoming Hope Line calls are heavy conversations, and when a volunteer has three of these in a row, that can be pretty stressful,” Brooks said. “We’ve updated the training to incorporate self-care strategies so volunteers can learn how to maintain and nourish their own emotional health while helping others.”

NCBAM also has implemented a monthly support group meeting for Hope Line volunteers.

NCBAM’s director, Dr. Sandy C. Gregory, began the Hope Line because of the adverse health risks associated with social isolation and loneliness and is now more concerned than ever.

“More than 1 million North Carolinians 65-plus are currently experiencing an increased level of isolation — and for an indeterminate length of time,” Gregory said. “NCBAM wants to help as many as possible by making the Hope Line available for both inbound and outbound calls.”

To reach the Hope Line, call 866-578-4673.

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