Local hotline expands program

Grace DeKoker, Copy Editor

Jackie Gibson stared at the freshly assembled annual report for Pillars, the one all their volunteers, financiers, and community members would see. As the director of marketing and communications, she had known the numbers, but seeing everything typed out, with thank-yous and heartfelt notes written brought forth a surge of pride.

“It was very heartwarming,” Gibson said. “I work there everyday, but it was heartwarming. Knowing we helped 10,000 [people] that year, seeing names and faces and how it was more than just a number was just very powerful.”

Pillars is a community-based program that centers around helping those who have nowhere else to turn, and offers free counseling sessions to those struggling with mental health disorders and survivors of abuse. There are five lines of service offered according to Gibson: mental health, addiction, domestic/sexual violence, child/family service and safehaven shelter. There are hotlines for both domestic abuse and sexual violence, but what stands out about Pillars is the communal aspect workers strive to achieve.

The hotlines are manned by volunteers, and without their involvement, neither program would have been able to get off the ground, Gibson said.

The sexual abuse hotline is a 24/7, 365 phone number that is available for anyone in the state. Despite locations in Berwyn, LaGrange, Western Springs and Hickory Hills, there are volunteers all around the Chicagoland area and throughout Ill. Those who are dispatchers for hotline services take a maximum of 15 minutes to provide information, referral, crisis intervention and other services, and if needed, Advocacy and Prevention Education Directory Patricia Murphy said.

“We want to engage our communities to take a stand,” Murphy said. “Community effort- once everyone pitches in, then we can see positive change.”

Murphy focuses on prevention education and speaks with middle school and high school adolescents about the importance of consent, safe sex, and identifying when a situation veers into dangerous territory, she said.

Legal and medical advocacy also fall into Pillars’ realm of programs, and the workers ensure that their clients receive as much help as they want or need. Pillars has connections with seven area hospitals, and 34 local law enforcement programs, so that if a worker needs to be dispatched to any scene for any reason, they are in a position to do so within the hour, Murphy said.

Pillars is one of the the largest nonprofit provider for social services in the Chicagoland area, as well as the state of Ill., according to Gibson. Her advice for students who want to volunteer and become a part of the program is to just call the main line.

“You think of people who need mental or social services as others, it’s surprising, it’s ordinary people you see daily.” she said. “The best thing to do is call, whether for help or to volunteer, and we can route you wherever you need to go.”