HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Melissa Santini of Ontonagon is the recipient of this year’s Adult U.P. Service Award from Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development for her volunteerism with Dial Help, Inc.

“It’s a nice thing to be acknowledged for your time and effort,” said Santini.

The mission of Dial Help is to “promote the physical, emotional, and social well-being of our communities.” The non-profit provides problem assistance, crisis intervention, referrals, education, and training. It serves Houghton, Keweenaw, Ontonagon, and Baraga counties. However, the hotline serves the entire Upper Peninsula.

Santini began volunteering with Dial Help when she was a student at Michigan Technological University in the 1980s. After retirement as a public school teacher, in 2015 she started to volunteer again in the non-profit’s crisis unit.

“It really is a community resource that reaches out to people who have really no one else to talk to or no one else to listen to them actually. We are a listening organization. A lot of what we do is listen,” said Santini.

Once a week, Santini drives from Ontonagon to Houghton for an eight-hour shift to answer calls on the crisis hotline. In the past few years, she has answered 800 calls and put in over 450 hours of volunteer time.

“It gives you a sense of satisfaction that maybe you helped somebody that day. Sometimes you leave feeling ‘Wow, I really didn’t help that person.’ So you kind of have to let that go because you don’t really ever get the end of the story. You only have them on the phone for however long they’re there. You don’t necessarily know what happens next. But, you hope that by providing them someone to talk to and maybe some referrals that they’ll find a path that’s better than the one they’re on.”

To learn how to volunteer with Dial Help or donate to the non-profit, you can visit its Facebook page and website.

For more information on Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development and to see the other award recipients, click here.

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