2-1-1 Big Bend relies on the support of dedicated volunteers to keep our hotlines fully staffed. Our volunteers provide free, short-term crisis counseling and referrals for:
- Helpline 2-1-1
Our hotline volunteers come from many different backgrounds. All are adults, at least 18 years of age, who live in the greater Tallahassee area. We are in particular need of volunteers who are fluent in Spanish and/or Haitian Creole to assist us in helping callers whose native language is not English.
Click here to learn about our different Volunteer Opportunities.
• Gain valuable crisis intervention and counseling skills
• Expand your knowledge of community resources
• Learn advanced communication skills
• Enhance your interpersonal skills
• Meet a variety of new people
• Develop networking opportunities
• Professional training program
• Evening training classes
• Flexible schedule when volunteering
Click here to learn more about our volunteering process.
Please print out and bring your completed application to one of our information and interview sessions. Check out dates and locations on our Training Schedule page.
If you cannot make it to any of the information and interview sessions, you can fax your completed application at least two days prior to the orientation session to
You can also arrange to email your application by contacting the Coordinator of Volunteers.
Volunteer Training is offered three times each year, typically beginning in January, May, and September. Classroom and phone room training typically last between nine and ten weeks. Volunteer trainees then begin a series of supervised shifts to become cleared counselors.
2-1-1 Big Bend is proud to have one of the most comprehensive hotline counselor training programs in the nation. You do not need prior experience in counseling to volunteer with 2-1-1 Big Bend.
Our training consists of three main parts:
• classroom training
• phone room training
• supervised phone shifts
Training begins with approximately 45 hours of classroom instruction. The skills and procedures to handle different types of calls are taught through lecture, guided imagery, model role-plays, interactive exercises and games.
Examples of topics covered in training are:
• active listening
• domestic and sexual violence
• substance abuse
Trainees have frequent opportunities to practice their skills and receive feedback through participation in small-group, role-play call scenarios.
In conjunction with the classroom training, each trainee schedules 12-15 hours of phone room training. During this time, the trainee becomes acquainted with our information resources and referral database.
Upon completing both classroom and phone room training, trainees answer the hotlines under the direct supervision of experienced counselors until ready to work independently.
If you live in the Tallahassee area and think you may be interested in volunteering with 2-1-1 Big Bend, please call our Coordinator of Volunteers at (850) 617-6309 or email.
Volunteering as a 2-1-1 Big Bend hotline counselor requires a significant commitment of time and energy. It's natural to wonder what you'll get out it, and whether the benefits will be worth the effort. You are the only person who can answer that question for yourself. However, we can tell you that for many people over many years, the answer has been a definite yes. In fact, it's common for volunteers to report that their experience at 2-1-1 Big Bend has changed their lives forever.
Here are some of the benefits that you may receive:
• the knowledge that you are able to make a difference in people's lives, one call at a time
• personal growth from helping others
• improved interpersonal skills in personal and professional relationships
• greater understanding of self and the inner experiences of others
• personal expertise in issues related to HIV/AIDS and suicide
• a supportive environment of trainers, volunteers, supervisors, and other staff
• the development of meaningful friendships with other volunteers and staff
• networking opportunities with individuals who share similar interests and goals
Professional & Academic Rewards:
• professional experience providing direct service to a broad segment of the population with a variety of needs and concerns
• expanded knowledge and awareness of local and statewide community resources and services
opportunities for paid employment
• work-study opportunities when approved by 2-1-1 Big Bend and your university
• internship opportunities for many different academic programs, including Social Work, Marketing, Communications, Rehabilitation, and others
• academic and/or professional letters of recommendation from 2-1-1 Big Bend supervisory staff for volunteers who have successfully completed their 200-hour commitment
To learn more about the benefits of volunteering, read what our volunteers have said in their own words.
If you have more questions, please call our Coordinator of Volunteers at (850) 617-6309 or send our Coordinator of Volunteers a message.
If you decide to volunteer as a 2-1-1 Big Bend hotline counselor (and we hope you will!) and you are accepted into a training class, we ask you to make the following commitments:
Commitment to the Training Schedule
Attendance and punctuality are very important during training. A new topic is covered during each session, and those who arrive late or not at all are at a great disadvantage in the learning process. Also, we have found that attendance and punctuality at training are good indicators of how dependable a volunteer will be when covering assigned hotline shifts. For that reason, we ask that you make an honest assessment of your time and your ability to commit to training before signing up.
Commitment to the Learning Process
In order for training to be effective and productive, we ask that you participate actively and honestly to develop the skills you will need to be a successful hotline counselor. You will be expected to read assigned sections from the training manual before most training sessions. These readings are brief, but essential to your learning. We want you to be the best hotline counselor you can be, and to feel like you're prepared for any call that comes your way.
Commitment to Volunteering
In return for receiving 75 hours of training, all volunteers commit to volunteering for 200 hours with 2-1-1 Big Bend. Once you have successfully completed training and are approved to answer the hotlines by yourself, you may begin to earn volunteer hours that count towards the 200-hour commitment. You will be expected to complete three 3-hour shifts and one overnight shift each month while you are working on your volunteer hours commitment.
Commitment to Yourself and to Your Callers
Training to answer a hotline can be very intense and demanding. The 2-1-1 Big Bend staff, both paid and volunteer, are here to support you. We want to provide whatever help you need in order to take care of yourself and to be effective for your callers.
We know that all of these commitments can seem intimidating, but we wouldn't ask them of you if they weren't extremely important. Also, remember that volunteering comes with many rewards as well.
If you have more questions, please call our Coordinator of Volunteers at (850) 617-6309 or send our Coordinator of Volunteers a message. We are looking forward to hearing from you!
Do I need prior experience?
No, we are much more concerned about your attitude and willingness to learn than whether you've had previous training or hotline experience. Work or volunteer experience is helpful, but not necessary. When selecting new trainees, we look for individuals who display empathy, insightfulness, resourcefulness, and non-judgmental attitudes.
Do you interview prospective volunteer trainees?
Yes, we interview our volunteer applicants in order to get a feel for their attitudes and motivations related to telephone counseling and helping people in need. The interview process may also involve contacting personal and/or professional references, so you will be asked to provide contact information for three references. Hotline training involves a significant investment of energy, both for the trainee and for the trainers, so we do our best to make sure that it will be a good fit for everybody.
Who are your volunteers?
All of our volunteers are adults (at least 18 years of age) who live in Tallahassee and nearby areas. They are a diverse group representing a wide range of ages, occupations, interests, and backgrounds. A significant number are college students who are training to enter a mental health or other human service profession. We also make a special effort to recruit bilingual individuals who can talk directly with native-speakers of Haitian-Creole or Spanish. Whatever their backgrounds, the important quality that all of our volunteers share is that they are caring listeners who want to help.
How often will I be expected to volunteer?
We ask that you do three 3-hour shifts and one 9-hour overnight shift (11 p.m. to 8 a.m.) per month until you have completed your volunteer commitment of 200 hours. These shifts can be scheduled on weekdays or weekends depending on your availability.
Can I volunteer without doing overnights?
We really count on our volunteers to work some overnights, since those are the most expensive shifts to fill on a paid basis. Many volunteers find that they enjoy these shifts, and that they offer an easy way to finish their volunteer hour commitment quickly. However, if spending the night at 2-1-1 Big Bend is not an option for you due to personal obligations, it may be possible to work out an alternate arrangement.
Are there paid opportunities for hotline counselors?
Yes. In addition to relying on volunteers, it's necessary to fill many of our hotline shifts with paid counselors. Experienced volunteers usually apply for these part-time and full-time positions.
What does the training cost?
The volunteer training itself is free, however there is a $50 materials fee that covers the cost of your training manual and the key fob that lets you into our building. If this is a hardship for you after you have been accepted into the training program, let us know and we'll work something out.
What skills will I learn?
The first skills you will learn are those involved in "active listening." Our active listening model is based on the work of the psychologist Carl Rogers, and it is the foundation of the type of counseling you will do at 2-1-1 Big Bend. You will also learn about crisis theory and a structured model for handling crisis calls.
Once you have learned these basics, you will be trained to handle a variety of specific types of calls, including those involving:
• sexual violence
• domestic violence
• child abuse
• parenting concerns
• information & referral
• panicked callers
• and more
You will also be trained in the specific 2-1-1 Big Bend policies and procedures that you will follow while working at the agency.
Do you ever offer daytime training during the week, or entirely on weekends?
Right now, we don't have any daytime trainings, other than the limited weekend sessions that are part of the normal evening training schedule.
More questions? Let us know by calling our Coordinator of Volunteers at
(850) 617-6309 or sending our Coordinator of Volunteers a message.
We hope to meet you soon!
“In my time volunteering with 2-1-1, I gained immeasurable skills and experiences that have furthered me, both personally and academically. I loved being able to help people one-on-one – it’s very rewarding to hear someone tell you “thanks” for providing a listening ear. 2-1-1 provides a truly unique opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue counseling or social work.”
- Rachel K., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“2-1-1 Big Bend offered a wonderfully eye opening experience. It’s great to know there are resources available for the community and it was satisfying for me to be able to provide referrals to such services.”
- Joi R., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“Someone visited my high school and talked about 2-1-1 and I started volunteering with the agency as a teen ambassador. I am incredibly grateful for my training and experiences with 2-1-1 Big Bend; my time on the hotlines taught me more than any of the classes in my undergraduate program of study. I have grown as an individual and student from the people I have talked to on the hotlines and I hope to volunteer again with them in the future. The entire experience really changed my life.”
- Allison H., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“Volunteering as a hotline counselor with 2-1-1 Big Bend was arguably the best decision that I made during my undergraduate career. As a psychology student and an aspiring clinical psychologist, I had been yearning for the hands-on experience that I felt my curriculum lacked. This agency provided me with the opportunity to cultivate my basic counseling and communication skills, and it allowed me to figure out what kind of therapist I wanted to be for my clients in the future. The hands-on experience has given me so much confidence, and the people you will be volunteering with are beyond amazing. I cannot stress enough what a safe and supportive learning environment these people create for their volunteers and the relationships I have made during my time with 2-1-1 will continue long beyond my time ends with this agency. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity, and in return, you will improve your communication skills, receive invaluable counseling experience that prepares you for graduate school and other opportunities, and forge relationships and connections that will support you for a lifetime!”
- Katie W., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“2-1-1 Big Bend provides great training for volunteers. I enjoyed volunteering and getting to know the staff and other volunteers. The staff and supervisors were available and eager to help. Even through difficult calls, I was always able to debrief with someone afterwards, which I found to be very helpful!”
- Ana M., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“Words cannot describe how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to volunteer with 2-1-1. 2-1-1 takes already compassionate individuals and turns them into active listeners, participants, and strong supporters for the community. The training available to each person here is beyond phenomenal and knowing that we are here helping so many individuals on a daily basis is an added benefit. As well, the experience I have gained while working with other counselors here has made me certain that pursuing a career in mental health is the perfect path for me and I know that I will carry these skills with me where ever my career or life takes me. I cannot say enough how amazing 2-1-1 is and how talented, caring, and awesome the counselors and staff are that make 2-1-1 possible to exist. “
- Christine S., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and I will never forget my time spent at 2-1-1 Big Bend changing and influencing callers’ lives. I am so grateful I got to be a volunteer with such a dynamic and engaging organization.”
- Sara F., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“I volunteered for 2-1-1 Big Bend for a few years in the mid to late 80’s, back when it was TCRS. The training and experiences that I received have proved invaluable through the years. I still use elements that I learned from that in my personal and professional life, particularly with regards to relationship building and problem resolution. The knowledge of community resources that I gained has allowed me to continue to be helpful to others. A few years ago, I decided to move into human services professionally. It was the training and experience that I received as a 2-1-1 volunteer, that made this transition possible. I am currently developing a volunteer program to provide supportive services to formerly homeless individuals based upon the training that I received and the counseling model that I learned, that is still used at 2-1-1 three decades later. I always recommend it as a volunteer experience, and as a referral for resources and crisis intervention.”
- Bret O., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor, Trainer, On-Call Supervisor
“I trained on the HIV AIDS Hotline and the Healthy Baby Hotline in the early 90’s. As a new Social Worker, I found that the Training took all of the schooling that I had and allowed for me to put that into Practice. I found that I learned invaluable communication skills that I continue to utilize today with my Profession. It was so rewarding to be on the other end of the phone with someone in need and to give them the support and referral that they were so very desperate to receive. The Healthy Baby Hotline was there for me through my first Pregnancy and it was interesting to be the person on the end of the phone in need and to understand what it feels like to receive the compassion, feedback and referrals when I was the one in crisis. I would highly recommend this volunteer experience to anyone who is looking to give back to the Community and strengthen your skills of communication. Today, I find myself calling 2-1-1 for help with referrals for Clients as well as referring a large variety of callers to 2-1-1 for the resources and support that they need.”
- Melissa W., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“2-1-1 Big Bend provided me with an opportunity to serve the community and to help others, but for me, the personal growth I experienced counseling those in crisis and providing referrals was truly invaluable. There is no experience like the one 2-1-1 Big Bend provides.”
- Zach K., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“I’ve loved my time with 2-1-1 Big Bend. When I really needed help, my supervisors worked with me. I’ve learned so much that can applied to the rest of my life. Supervising trainees was challenging, but helping someone else through that process was rewarding.”
- Katie L., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor
“Volunteering has helped me grow, not only as a person, but professionally as a social worker. I am more knowledgeable about the types of services available to people in need and I am more competent in dealing with people in crisis. 2-1-1 Big Bend does so much for the community and I am so glad I got to be a part of it”
- Demi M., Former Volunteer Hotline Crisis Counselor