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A Phone Call For Fitting In

by Gideon Grudo
Wednesday Apr 18, 2012

Almost fifteen years ago, Brad Becker took a call from a teenager in the Midwest, who needed some advice. He was thinking about coming out. Through their conversation Becker learned that no one had ever told the boy it was OK.

The call wasn't random, it was coming into the LGBT National Help Center, where Becker is today the executive director. The Center gives out free - and confidential - counseling, advice, and local information to anyone who needs or wants it.

The hotline was founded in 1995, an outgrowth of what was then the New York City hotline, a similar enterprise that focused on the city. Back then, Becker said, there were around 150 local hotlines like this, but each one was specific to its locale, separate from the others. This hotline, Becker envisioned, would be different and would help anyone, anywhere.

Today the San Francisco-based hotline holds over 15,000 resources in its one-of-a-kind database. Many of those local hotlines around the country have since disappeared making the National Help Center's hotline even more important.

"It put increased pressure on the national hotline," Becker said. "Support from our community has been wonderful."

The hotline is funded through individual donations only. But money is only one part of what's needed to run the place. The other part is supported by volunteers who answer calls and farm resources out to the public.

Overseeing the volunteers and maintaining the extensive database is Aaron Almanza. The manager of information technology joined the team in 2008.

"This job came up and it sounded really exciting," Almanza said. "I can often times hear [the volunteers] giving out resources to people who never knew they existed. You can hear a reaction from the volunteers' end when people find what they need."

Almanza's favorite memory at the hotline is also about the Midwest, where resources tend to be more rare than in the more urban parts of the country.

"There was a volunteer on a chat with a young girl. They were on this online chat, and they couldn't find anything - there was nothing in the database for several hundred miles," Almanza said. "I found two or three youth groups that were just formed that week. She was so excited that I found something."

Looking into the future, Almanza said he hopes to see the hotline doing exactly what it does today. Of course he said they're always looking for more donations and having more resources to throw in the database.

While sometimes the hotline does get an abusive call from an anti-gay person, Becker said those are rare and never cause much of a problem.

The hotline has two numbers, depending on the resource sought:

GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
GLBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743)

Visit to learn more, and take advantage of the hotline's peer-support chat.

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