Dialing for dollars: Dial Help holds annual fundraising gala

HANCOCK – Dial Help’s annual fundraising gala was pretty laid back for a gala event, with pizza, live bluegrass music and very few suits or ball gowns. But that didn’t stop the organization’s friends from coming out in droves or bidding in both live and silent auctions to help support Dial Help’s 24-hour crisis line and myriad other substance abuse, counseling and education programs.

“I have a tux in the closet that doesn’t fit anymore,” said Jim O’Brien of the Western UP Substance Abuse Service Coordinating Agency, which helps to fund some of Dial Help’s programs. “I’m just as happy to show up like this and have some pizza.”

According to Dial Help Executive Director Rebecca Crane, 63 people purchased tickets for the gala, and $6,806 was raised to support the organization’s programs. The event was held at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock, featured live music by Keweenaw Brewgrass, and celebrated 43 years of helping Upper Peninsula residents in crisis.

“I thought things went well last night,” Crane said. “I want to thank all the attendees, businesses and sponsors who helped make the event successful.”

However, she said more funds are still needed to keep services running, particularly the U.P.-wide crisis line that’s considered Dial Help’s core service. In her speech at the gala, she noted that much of the organization’s funding for other services requires the crisis line to maintain its 24/7 status.

Along with money, she said, crisis volunteers are a crucial service, as they help to defray the cost of keeping that line running.

Beyond raising funds, she said, “events like this are important because people don’t realize the extent of services we offer and the impact we make in the community.”

During her speech, she listed some of those less-known services, which include a crisis texting service for people more comfortable with that technology, a Men Matter program to promote positive attitudes toward women, a new follow-up call service to help people who had sought help while considering suicide, and a three-way call program that includes a trusted relative or counselor in a call with a Dial Help worker and client.

Also, Dial Help offers individual and group counseling – on a true sliding scale for its counseling services, meaning low-income clients may pay little or nothing for the help they receive – as well as referrals to other specialists and agencies.

When this year’s satisfaction surveys came in, Crane said, one of them read “Thank you, you’re one of the reasons I’m still here.”

Steph Olsson, who later served as the evening’s auctioneer, said the confidential nature of Dial Help’s counseling services often keep the organization out of the public eye, making the gala a unique opportunity to recognize the staff and volunteers that provide them.

“What they’re doing is truly tough and important,” he said. “It’s God’s work, and it takes a special person to do that.”

Without Dial Help, he said, many people in crisis would have nowhere to turn.

“People who need help have a place to call, and to go,” he said. “If Dial Help wasn’t here, where would they go?”

O’Brien, who has worked with Dial Help for years, said the organization is full of terrific people who work constantly to improve their services, prioritizing needs and seeking funding later, rather than matching services to available funding.

“They’ve been a scrappy outfit, keeping themselves going,” he said. “Like a lot of service organizations, they depend on the generosity of strangers.”

If you are in crisis and need someone to talk to, call Dial Help any time at 482-HELP. To donate, volunteer or learn more, go to or call the business line, 482-9077.