Inside a two-story, pink and blue house in Lawrence is a crisis intervention center that assists with personal concerns by lending an ear to the community.
Headquarters, a United Way-funded agency, at 1419 Mass., offers people 24-hour help by phone and in person. Every conversation with Headquarters is confidential and counseling is non-judgmental.
``Mainly, we listen,'' said Kelly, a volunteer at Headquarters, who asked that her last name not be disclosed.
What began in 1969 as a support center for high school kids who were having problems with drugs has expanded into an organization designed to help people with whatever problems arise.
As the needs of the community grew, Headquarters went through a ``graudal evolution'' to include new services to handle suicide intervention, health and sexuality concerns, AIDS information, relationship problems, emergency housing and more, said Marcia Epstein, Headquarters' director and only full-time staff member.
Headquarters has ``become sort of a general crisis center'' for short-term counseling, Epstein said.
``WE HANDLE everything, and everybody (volunteers) gets pretty good exposure to just about every type of situation rather quickly,'' Kelly added.
Headquarters' goal has ``always been to provide a real easy place for people to talk about things that are real hard for them to talk about,'' Epstein said.
Epstein said Headquarters does not want counseling to be ``real formal'' where people come in and sit stiffly across a desk from somebody. The agency wants it to be easy for people to talk about their problems, she said.
Headquarters offers an emergency housing service with 12 beds, providing a temporary haven for people in need of a place to stay.
Headquarters also offers a unique service aimed at children, called Phone-A-Friend.
PHONE-A-FRIEND encourages kids ``just to call in if they are scared or lonely or just want to chat,'' Epstin said.
In 1990, Headquarters handled 16,016 cases. And this is not an easy task for the crisis volunteers who operate three phone lines 24 hours a day.
Currently, Headquarters has 60 active volunteers and has a training program for 26 more, Epstein said.
Training to become a volunteer at Headquarters involves 100 hours of instruction on how to listen and communicate effectively. Once the training is complete, volunteers must commit themselves to working at the center for six months.
``I think it's amazing that people will come in and stay up until three o'clock in the morning to talk to someone suicidal. I really believe in the services and I am amazed by the people who volunteer here,'' Epstein said.
This year United Way of Douglas County has allocated Headquarters $54,226. Last year the agency received $51,800.
The increase in the United Way allocation is due to the fact that ``the use of the services is so high,'' Epstein said.
Headquarters may be reached at 841-2345.