The Long Island Crisis Center recently expanded: the company has added six new volunteer members to its team.
Founded in 1971, LICC offers a multitude of services, such as a volunteer-based 24/7 hotline, LGBTQ+ services, workshops and more. The organization did not provide the Herald with the names of the new volunteers.
Amidst the pandemic, the organization relied on virtual services and moved their platform online to adapt. Although their organization was unable to meet in person, their client base grew, said Long Island Crisis Center Associate Executive Director Tawni Engel. Engel has worked with the crisis center for 13 years.
“It was a big undertaking but we managed to do it,” said Engel. “There was definitely a shift in what the stressors were and what they were calling the hotline about. We didn’t want them to feel abandoned, especially during such a scary time.”
Engel said there was an influx of callers at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but the numbers have since dwindled. But as the new Omicron variant surges, the organization is ready to handle an influx in calls.
“People were afraid of Covid, they were losing their jobs, their family members,” said Engel. “The one silver lining we’ve been seeing through our virtual services is that we have been able to engage a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to access our services otherwise.”
Experiencing the success and accessibility of the virtual services, the organization is planning to keep those services in place even after the pandemic is over.
A separate division of LICC, Pride For Youth, established in 1993, was also affected during the pandemic.
Recognizing the need for LGBTQ+ support on Long Island, the group offers similar services and even recreational programs for LGBTQ+ people, such as weekly virtual meetings to socialize and interact with one another. Engel said Pride For Youth received an influx of calls for young LGBTQ+ teens facing homelessness and food insecurity on the island.
“Covid has really done a number on how we operate as a society as a whole,” ,” said Director of Pride For Youth, Devon Zappasodi, 38. “Even before [the pandemic], we knew that the LGBTQ+ community was disproportionately affected across certain areas and covid has completely exacerbated and made the situation worse. … There’s really no other places on Long Island that offer what we offer, or are capable of doing so.”
Hired by Engel, Zappasodi has been involved with the organization for eight years. Both a member of the team and the LGBTQ+ community, Zappasodi believes the organization has changed his life as a queer trans man.
Before finding PFY, Zappasodi said he was in an unhealthy relationship. With the help of the organization, he found a way out. Now, he “isn’t leaving anytime soon.”
“[Being with PFY] increased my self-esteem and confidence,” said Zappasodi. “It showed me that I was worthy and eventually I found myself empowered as a person, enough to get out of an unhealthy relationship.”
If you are in need of counseling or other services, call the Long Island Crisis Center hotline at: (516) 679-1111.