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In our age of texting and tweeting for communication, it can be hard to find a patient soul who will lend an ear, who’s more concerned with someone else’s day than their own—someone whose attention span is longer than 30 or 40 syllables. Terrence Larimer knows this. He’s Trident United Way’s 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer who has listened to thousands of callers in need over a staggering 28 years.
“A lot of people just need someone to listen,” he says of the free hotline service that has offered support and crisis intervention to callers in South Carolina and across the country since 1970. “If you think about it, that’s not an easy thing to find these days. Advice is easy, but listening—really listening—that’s hard.”
“Our goal is not to tell people what to do,” he continues. “Our goal is to help people figure out what they need to do. You have to be open to listening to what’s going on with others and give them a chance to talk. You have to be a much better listener than a talker to be a counselor at Hotline.”
Larimer first came to 2-1-1 Hotline in February 1984, looking for a way to give back to the community and feel good about himself. Despite having a full-time career in natural and cultural resource management at Joint Base Charleston, he began volunteering three or four hours a week and has persevered without a hitch through changes in the organization, in technology, and in his own life. “Terrence is not retired, independently wealthy, blessed with extra time in his day, or superhuman,” says 2-1-1 director Charlotte Anderson. “He’s just a regular guy doing his part to improve lives one person at a time. And with each life he touches, our community is strengthened through his continued gift of compassion.”
In fact, it’s the variety of people and spectrum of issues he’s exposed to every week that’s part of what inspires him to continue to give of himself. “It gets me out of my own little world and lets me see the bigger world that’s out there,” says Larimer. “It gives me a much broader perspective on life. These problems are very real, and how people deal with things is remarkable. Some people call in and have so much stress and so many things going on in their lives that it’s remarkable that they would continue on, and most of them do.”
Help line: Larimer has helped a variety of callers “help themselves,” from a mom sorting through financial issues or a teen dealing with peer pressure to a person searching for a reason to go on.
By the Numbers: At three or four hours a week of counseling plus many weekends of training volunteers over 28 years, Larimer has easily donated nearly 6,000 hours, answered at least 7,000 calls, and taken part in an immeasurable amount of healing.
A Changing World: Larimer has grown with the organization, learning new technologies and offering feedback so that “the old-timers didn’t get left behind.”