Jody, six months pregnant, desperately wants her boyfriend to marry her. But she's afraid to tell him. Talking, sometimes choking, through her tears, she says she has considered suicide because she feels so alone and unloved.
Billy, 6, is terrified. His mother beats him twice a day, and he doesn't know why. An only child, he is afraid and wants to run away.
Problems. They could involve almost anything, an unwanted child, fear of being raped, a problem with a spouse. One common thread weaves through the anguish: the callers need help, and they've phoned 462-6690, the D.C. Hotline, to get it.
"This is a society of talkers that sometimes needs listeners," Paul Kirwin, one of the Hotline's co-administrators, says. "That's why we're here."
Kirwin and Sherry Cummings, the other administrator, each receive $2,400 a year for directing the project.
Running their 5-year-old service out of what used to be a one-bedroom apartment in a Northwest retirement home, the Hotline's 65 listener volunteers work staggered shifts from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week.
But Hotline directors are worried they will have to disconnect the phones this fall unless they can find the $19,000 needed for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
This is $7,000 more than the present Hotline budget, an increase caused by higher operating costs, Hotline officials said.
While the Hotline needs a bigger budget for next year, some organizations that have supported the Hotline in recent years are cutting back on their funding, said Cole Murphy, president of the Hotline's board of directors.
The Hotline expects to receive approximately $6,000 from the United Planning Organization (UPO), the line's largest contributor in recent years. However, Hotline officials fear their second largest contributor, the Public Welfare Foundation (PWF), will say "no" this year.
Last year, PWF, provided $2,500 of the Hotline's $12,000 budget. But PWF typically provides seed money to get new projects off the ground, not to continue established ones, Murphy said.
The remaining $3,500 of this year's budget came from eight private foundations. But securing similar funds may be difficult because of the District's financial crunch. Social service organizations which used to receive money from the Department of Human Services (DHS) now must compete with each other for private funds. DHS' project funding pool, which totaled in the 1980-81 budget.
Even if all of this year's contributors come through with similar donations, the Hotline still will need the extra $7,000. To meet that goal, Murphy last month sent letters to 115 churches and mental health clinics which, he says, indirectly benefit from the Hotline's services. He said he has not yet received firm commitments from any of them, but several have expressed preliminary interest in seeing the program continued. Murphy would not provide the names of those groups for fear of endangering possible funding.
Without the comprehensive crisis intervention service, many people would have nowhere to turn, say Hotline volunteers. The line received more than 14,000 calls last year.
Vietnam veterans, for instance, are turning in increasing numbers to the Hotline. So are people with marital difficulties.
"They're people with regular day-to-day problems: a man who is afraid after his girlfriend left him; a teen-ager teased by her peers for being naive; a young girl who is pregnant and has no idea where to go for an abortion and is frightened," said 46-year-old volunteer Larry, a radiologist.
Some of the volunteers have backgrounds in psychology, but most do not. They range in age from 21 to 85 years and are in both professional and blue-collar occupations.
Despite their busy schedules, they have become friends and find time for monthly parties and rap sessions where they discuss their own problems.
Colorful posters adorn the phone room's walls, reminding volunteers of the best means for effective communication: Establish rapport, explore the here and now, discuss the caller's relationships with friends, employer and family.
One wall-to-wall bulletin board, bears information on frequent callers. "All I need is sex Sue" or "Risque rapist Roger," for instance.
Training sessions which all new phone aides must attend emphasize the line's non-interventionist, non-judgmental philosophy. Commonly, the volunteers refer callers to community agencies that offer free or low-cost services: abortions, locating temporary housing or advising on birth control.
"We are not here to diagnose people's problems," 23-year-old Cassandra says. "Instead, we try to be warm and accepting, so the caller can open up without danger of being hurt." A Howard University senior, she has been a Hotline volunteer for a year.
"Really," adds Vivian, an elderly woman who works at the Hotline about 12 hours a month, "anyone can be trained to listen. And that's all it takes to help people with problems -- listening and guiding the conversation so the caller makes the decisions about his own life."
Having grown from a 7-hour-a-day hotline when it opened at Luther Place Memorial Church, the Hotline plans to provide around-the-clock service if the budget crunch is solved.
"There are a lot of things we want to do, not to be bigger, but to be better," said Sherry Cummings. "That really is what we're after, helping more people get to the heart of the issues that are troubling them and helping them face the world in a better way."