Concern Hotline honors helpers

Posted: December 8, 2012

The Winchester Star

Concern Hotline board President Rusty Holland (at right in photo at left) presents one of two Outstanding Corporate Partner awards to Rob Connor, who represented Quarles Energy Services. At right, Concern Executive Director Sue Hildreth (right) presents the Bettie Johnson Volunteer of the Year Award to Kathy Nies-Hepner.
Concern Hotline Executive Director Sue Hildreth presents Dennis Vaughn of Frederick County with the Director’s Award.

Winchester — Concern Hotline is available to provide a listening ear to people in trouble — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

That would be a much harder task to accomplish without many of the people who were honored Nov. 29 at the nonprofit organization’s annual dinner and awards banquet, said Executive Director Sue Hildreth.

More than 100 volunteers and donors attended the dinner at Piccadilly’s Public House and Restaurant, where several were singled out for their contributions.

“They have been chosen for their leadership, for their commitment to Concern Hotline’s mission, and for their financial gifts,” she said.

Hildreth and board President Rusty Holland handed out seven awards, though some had multiple recipients.

The Bettie Johnson Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Kathy Nies-Hepner, who logged 960 primary and 1,246 backup hours between Nov. 1, 2011, and Oct. 30, 2012.

“She always has time to listen, she is always there when we need someone to take an extra shift and she never complains,” Hildreth said.

Nies-Hepner of Woodstock, a volunteer for 14 years, was shocked but grateful when her name was called.

She usually works the 1 to 5 a.m. shift twice a week, and during that time, mostly talks to people in crisis.

“They are tired, they feel hopeless. Many times, I just listen to them for a while so they can relax,” she said.

Dennis Vaughn of Frederick County was given the Director’s Award, which goes to someone who has displayed “extraordinary commitment to the organization,” Hildreth said.

Vaughn, a board member, said he was teasing his wife before the award was announced, saying that he was the recipient. He turned out to be correct, and she knew it, because Hildreth encouraged her to ensure that he came to the dinner.

“But I never in a million years thought it would be me,” he said.

This year’s Outstanding Corporate Partner award was a tie between Quarles Energy Services, which supplied gas to cook the food at the hotline’s annual Friday Fish Fry Celebration, and Sunbelt Rentals, which provides the generators.

Also recognized for their contributions to the fish fry were the winners of the Elite 5 awards — Byron Furlong, Mike Conaboy, Jef Lindstrom, the Cricket Main family and the Hess family.

Stefanie Hess, her husband Mike, and their three teenagers helped with the fish fry for the first time this year, doing “whatever Sue needed us to do.”

“It gives the kids an opportunity to help out in the community and learn the importance of volunteering,” Stefanie Hess said.

These honors were also presented:

The Outstanding Community Supporter was Clear Channel.

Four Helping Hands awards went to Delia Jennings, Penny Martin, Theresa Gaines and Dr. Rodney Bragdon.

The Outstanding Contributor to Concern’s Mission was Stephanie Nelson.

Although another awards dinner for volunteer listeners is held in the spring, Hildreth paid special tribute to the people she calls her “dream team.”

“My volunteers are awesome. They have families and they work jobs,” she said. “They have all the responsibilities that other people have, yet they take four hours or more a week to answer the hotline.”

The organization, celebrating its 45th year, also released its annual report, and Hildreth discussed its goals in the coming years.

The hotline received 8,005 calls from Oct. 31, 2011, to Nov. 1, 2012, according to the report. In the third quarter, it had 2,098 calls, up 21 percent from 1,725 calls in the same period of 2011.

The topics of the calls were: mental health issues (36 percent); grief, loss and loneliness (17 percent); financial crisis (16 percent); medical and disability (8 percent); substance abuse (4 percent); and “other” (18 percent) — including abuse/neglect, legal assistance, transportation, aging assistance and sexual issues.

Some people just want a listening ear, but volunteer listeners also have 206 agencies to which they can refer callers, said Bill Pifer, a past president.

“Concern is Concern, but it is also every other organization we have in our sourcebook,” he said.

Through the end of September, the hotline had an income of $107,598 and expenses of $104,090, the report said.

However, Hildreth projected about a $15,000 increase in next year’s budget as the program seeks to better serve Spanish-speaking callers.

“At this time, we cannot take bilingual calls, and we realize the need for such a service,” she said.

The program must provide a trainer for Spanish-speaking volunteers to teach them how to be a listener, to translate its manual and materials into Spanish, and to be able to evaluate calls to make sure they meet Concern’s standards, she said.


For more information about Concern Hotline, call 540-536-1630. People in crisis living in the Winchester/Frederick/Clarke area can call the hotline number at 540-667-0145.

— Contact Laura McFarland at