Woody Austin

Daily Point of Light # 3615 Dec 12, 2007

Woody has been a volunteer at CONTACT for the past 27 years filling in many overnight and empty day shifts. In December alone, Woody met his call center commitment and filled in six additional shifts in four days, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Woody should understand people, for he has spent the past 16 years working at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Southeast Dallas working with children from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade. Currently he works with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten aged children. This second career came after a first career in management for two different utility companies.

Woody remembers one Friday night, when a teenage boy called because he was depressed and was considering running away from home. He was even contemplating suicide. The boy was living with one parent and his sister, and the sister was “miss perfect,” who received continual praise for her grades and activities. The other parent had picked up the sister and the boy was left at home. The boy had also just started at a new school because he had been so ostracized at his previous school that the parents and counselor thought a new school would provide a fresh start. However, he had not made many friends in his new school yet. Throughout the call, Woody engaged the boy in talking about person who had demonstrated concern for him in the past. By talking about these persons, Woody was able to help the boy identify positive reasons to live. As a result, the caller planned alternatives that would yield support systems for him and help him grow.

“Spending the time on the phones listening and reflecting with callers is just as valuable as any monetary donation we can make,” says Woody, “In addition, after each shift there is a sense of mission accomplished.”