For just over three years, Art Ingraham of Holly has been volunteering his time for Common Ground, an organization aimed at offering passionate and understanding assistance to those in need.
“It has been the greatest experience of my life and the most rewarding,” he said.
Common Ground is a nonprofit organization. It was founded in 1971 in Birmingham by a group of parents and students concerned about the rising suicide rate and an increase in drug use.
According to Ingraham, Common Ground is manned by approximately 240 paid staff members and 120 volunteers. Volunteers do not receive reimbursement.
“Volunteers on the Resource and Crisis Helpline must complete 96 hours of training before they are allowed to answer calls,” he said. “I completed over 130 hours of classroom study before I covered the phone lines.”
In exchange for the free training, Common Ground requires volunteers to work at least one, four-hour shift per week for one year.
“I wish I could have taken this training when I was 25 years old,” Ingraham said. “How my life would have changed.”
The calls that come into the center can range from folks looking for resources and/or services such as housing, food, work, to just someone to talk to and to active potential suicides. Common Ground gets referrals from many places, including the police, hospitals, schools and more. Common Ground is a local entity, serving Holly and the surrounding communities, however, it also receives calls from all over the state, other states, and sometimes from all over the world, according to Ingraham.
“This work is very stressful and thankless,” he said. “The folks at Common Ground have not missed a shift since the pandemic started and continue to be there for the people they serve. They are truly our unsung heroes.”
Ingraham said he wants the community to know what they do at Common Ground and appreciate their compassion, understanding, empathy, and devotion to people in need.
Ingraham said he was a traveling salesman for over 40 years. “I met a lot of people in all those years. Each one had a story to tell. All I could do was listen and offer whatever advice I could come up with,” he said. “I am also a veteran service officer and talk with a lot of veterans that have a story to tell as well.
“In all these years, I have dealt with, come in contact with, and listened to people that wanted to end their lives. There were times when I just didn’t know what to say. When I saw an ad in the newspaper about Common Ground and the training they offered, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about how to help people in crisis and learn more about suicide prevention.
“It has been the greatest experience of my life and the most rewarding. My greatest reward is when a caller says, ‘thanks for listening’ or ‘you made me feel better.’ Sometimes we can save a life.”
Originally posted on Tri-County Times. Written by Vera Hogan, Associate Editor at the Tri-County Times.