About the Award:
The first annual Kay White Legacy Award has been established in celebration of Common Ground’s 50th Anniversary. This high honor recognizes dedication and leadership to Common Ground and its mission to help move people from crisis to hope.
Honorees of this award embody the selfless commitment and inspirational spirit that Kay White has demonstrated for over three decades in one or more of the following areas: Leadership, business savvy, fundraising, volunteerism, recruitment, and advocacy for mental health in the community.
In honor of each annual award recipient, donations can be made to the Kay White Legacy Award Fund, benefiting a Common Ground program of the honoree’s choosing.
Congratulations to Kay White, the first recipient of the Kay White Legacy Award!
Virtually every Monday morning for 37 years, Kay White has been listening to callers and providing hope and help on the Resource and Crisis Helpline at Common Ground. When asked why she’s done it for so long, she answers, “it’s the people who call. They are so inspiring because they really have so much courage. One, to call and two, to tell a total stranger what’s going on in their lives, which usually is not very good.”
Ironically, Kay almost didn’t make the cut to work on the Resource and Crisis Helpline.
In 1984, one of her friends who was a volunteer on the Resource and Crisis Helpline thought Kay would enjoy working there as well. Looking for something new and interesting, Kay applied but was turned down after her first interview. After her second interview, they decided to take me. I think it’s because I really don’t like to talk in circumstances like that – I just keep quiet and listen – so people didn’t know what to do with me.”
Listening turned out to be the perfect skill for the Resource and Crisis Helpline.
When she entered the Peace Corp in the late 1960s, volunteers were trained not to tell people what to do but rather, to spend time listening and let people express what they want. “We learned to be the catalyst to help them get to where they want to go,” she said, “and that’s the Resource and Crisis Helpline model. Some of the people who call
all the time have severe mental illness and are trying to cope as best they can. We’re there as support for them.”
The Resource and Crisis Helpline is on track to field over 50,000 calls, texts, and chats in Common Ground’s 50th anniversary year and, to date, Kay estimates she has talked with more than 15,000 callers.
Kay’s service to Common Ground extends far beyond the Resource and Crisis Helpline. She has served on its Board of Directors in numerous capacities, including several terms as board chair. During her board tenure, she helped facilitate Common Ground’s move from Birmingham to Royal Oak, hire its longest-serving CEO, Tony Rothschild, and orchestrate a merger with the Sanctuary teen runaway shelter. She also is a tireless recruiter for the nonprofit. Most Common Ground board members point to Kay when asked why they joined the board. Over the years, she has enlisted hundreds of volunteers – with a knack of finding the right people with the right talent and the right passion, helping to strengthen the Board and reach out into the community. Her deep commitment and enthusiasm are contagious and compelling.
If you ask her what she is most proud of, it is that every year thousands of people in crisis – those considering suicide, victims of domestic violence, mental illness, teen runaways, homeless, helpless, and those who have lost hope — have been able to find the help they need through Common Ground.
“The staff and volunteers at Common Ground are wonderful. They care so much. You always get re-energized when you are there. And Common Ground does excellent work. I could not be prouder to be part of such an important part of our community.”
Kay has chosen the Common Ground Resource and Crisis Helpline as the beneficiary of donations to the Kay White Legacy Award Fund. The Resource and Crisis Helpline provides 24/7 crisis counselling by professionally trained staff and volunteers. If you would like to make a donation to this essential service that Kay is so passionate about, please visit commongroundhelps.org/donate. For online donations, select “Kay White Legacy Fund” in the Campaign drop-down.
Common Ground will present the inaugural Kay White Legacy Award at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Hope event on October 24, 2021. Please visit the Celebration of Hope event page on Eventbrite to purchase tickets.