History of Contact
On March 16, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Alan Walker, minister in the Methodist Church, Sydney, Australia founded Life Line. This was a unique program that was designed to train volunteers to be available by telephone to callers 24 hours a day. Two years later, Rev. John Brand, a minister in Dallas, Texas began to take the initiative on beginning such a program in the United States. Rev. Brand was chosen to lead the new initiative and to use his church as the location for the first center. Since the name of Life Line was already being used in Texas, CONTACT was chosen as the name of this new ministry.
On March 27, 1967, CONTACT Dallas, Texas became the first center in the United States. It was conceived in 1967 as a response to the growing social issues of a changing nation. On March 1st, 1968 in Nashville, TN the Council for Telephone Ministries was formed to develop CONTACT centers throughout the US. During the next three years, under the leadership of Rev. Ross Whetstone and the support of the United Methodist Church through a startup budget of $250,000, many communities began the process of starting a center. In addition to Dallas, five other centers were now in operation: High Point and Charlotte in NC; Little Rock, AK; Chattanooga, TN and Newport News, VA.
On April 15, 1971, CONTACT Tele-ministries USA was incorporated in Tennessee to promote the Development of CONTACT. A day later, the first national conference of CONTACT was held in Newport News, VA. The Rev. Robert Larson established the first national office in Harrisburg, PA. There were 18 centers by this time. In October,1985, the name of the national organization was changed to its current form: CONTACT USA, Inc. Today, CONTACT USA has expanded to over 40 centers in 20 states, with volunteers responding annually to over 900,000 callers per year. CONTACT USA is committed to a vision of reaching all who seek someone to listen, someone who cares. Today, CONTACT USA, operates a virtual office from the home of the current Executive Director and a Board comprised of Center directors from across the country.
One factor remains constant in each center: thousands of volunteers that commit their time and help to serve their community through work at a CONTACT center. An elderly woman with time on her hands; a young couple with social concerns; a single mother, father, brother, sister – it matters not. They are all volunteers with one common goal – to be a human voice that will listen, relate and share. CUSA Centers are often the initial link in the human service chain. Many other health and social service organizations turn to CONTACT USA not only to handle their after-hours calls, but as their first step for clients entering their programs. Often, CONTACT centers are the point of access for those seeking help.