2024-01 FirstLink January Newsletter

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January 2024





UPDATE The FirstLink Care and Support Program made significant strides in 2023, having already completed 9,871 Care and Support calls by the end of November. This program provides essential support not only through calls but also through Caring Cards: handwritten notes that include FirstLink’s information, reinforcing to participants that support is always available. This year, we’ve sent 821 Caring Cards and 963 text messages. The program caters to individuals dealing with mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, substance use, or suicidal ideation, and is accessible via 211 or 988. The effectiveness and impact of the program are evident in the heartfelt feedback from our participants.

“I really appreciate you guys calling and checking in on me. I have been struggling with my health and knowing that there are people that care about me helps me to keep fighting. You are all blessed, and I hope that others share how much they appreciate you as well,” one participant said.

I look forward to these calls. Even if I don’t have anything to talk about, it is good to know that there are people who care about me and how I am doing.

988 Increases

Accessibility The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline network is expanding its accessibility to better serve individuals in crisis. They’ve recently enhanced their services to include a Spanishspeaking option for chatting and texting with a crisis counselor. Additionally, they’ve introduced a video chat feature for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, allowing them to communicate with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter via the 988 website. These new services are handled by specialized centers within the 988 network, complementing existing services tailored for veterans and LGBTQ+ youth. These

Motivated by this positive feedback, we are excited to continue supporting our participants and are committed to further growing the Care and Support Program!

improvements mark a significant step in making crisis support more inclusive and accessible.

A letter from Executive Director


Each year, many in our community reach out for help and hope by dialing 988 or 211. While the journey isn’t always easy, especially when discussing complex emotions and suicidal thoughts, our collective effort in recognizing the signs, raising awareness about suicide, and fostering open conversations can truly save lives. In this spirit, we invite you to consider supporting FirstLink during Giving Hearts Day.

FirstLink’s services, including the 988 and 211 helplines, significantly impact the lives of our callers. Our Call Specialists offer essential support and resources, often proving to be lifesaving. Here are some examples of the gratitude expressed by our callers for the support and services provided by FirstLink:


FirstLink is proud to be among the 560 charities participating in Giving Hearts Day this year, a 24-hour fundraising event dedicated to charities in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Since its inception in 2008, all funds raised on Giving Hearts Day have



The FirstLink Outreach team has been actively engaging with communities to raise awareness and share knowledge about our services. Our staff interacted with over 6,600 people at various community booth events in 2023. These events are crucial for us to communicate the support FirstLink offers and establish a rapport with community members, ensuring they feel comfortable seeking help when needed. We often encounter individuals or families who express their gratitude for the vital support we’ve provided in the past. Our team dedicated over 350 hours to training in 2023, imparting skills and knowledge to more than 3,100 participants. FirstLink provides training on mental health, suicide prevention, and resiliency, with sessions ranging from one hour to two full days. These trainings are accessible to all community members, regardless of their background or profession. We are immensely thankful to our attendees, supporters, and partners whose funding enables us to reach and positively impact our communities. You can learn more or register at


gone directly to participating charities. This year’s event is on Thursday, February 8th. We rely on your generous support to maintain our readiness to answer calls 24/7/365. Your contribution to FirstLink on Giving Hearts Day goes beyond a single day—it fosters a lifetime of generosity in our community. Remember, hope is on the line. I extend my deepest gratitude and humbly ask for your support. Respectfully,

Jennifer Illich Jennifer Illich

Executive Director FirstLink

“This is the most seen and heard I’ve ever felt in a phone call,” another caller said. “Most of my friends just tell me I’m an alcoholic, but you went the extra mile to help me. You are a blessing in disguise. Thank you.” yet another caller said when provided with an Alcoholics Anonymous resource.

FirstLink is my social support. You are very special people and really help. A call specialist saved my life a few years ago.

“I am very thankful for FirstLink’s staff. My life is a lot better knowing that I have someone helpful to talk to when I’m battling my depression. I appreciate you talking to me tonight. You helped to give me good ideas and it helps to wipe away negative thoughts from my head,” a fourth caller said. From saving lives to fostering a sense of belonging or providing invaluable resources, Firstlink’s commitment to being a lifeline for those in need is evident in the heartfelt expressions of gratitude from those we serve.

DIAL or TEXT 988

4342 15th Ave S #201A Fargo, ND 58103

IS ON THE LINE As Giving Hearts Day 2024 approaches on Thursday, February 8, we’re thrilled to share some exciting news and remind you of the crucial role you play in this event. Every participating organization, including ours, is required to raise a matching gift before Giving Hearts Day. This match is an amount pledged or given, to be matched by what we raise on the day of the event. We’re thrilled to share that we’ve already secured $25,000 in matching funds, setting a strong foundation for our campaign. Our goal for 2024 is ambitious but critical: we aim to raise $60,000 to continue providing help and hope to those struggling in our communities. Remember, hope is on the line, and with your generous support, we can be a beacon of hope and assistance to all who need resources and connection. Your contribution can help us keep the lines open. Your support means we can be there for everyone who needs resources, connection, and hope. Together, we can ensure that hope remains on the line for those who need it most.

Let’s join forces to reach our goal and ensure that everyone has access to the support they need. Together, we can keep hope on the line for our community. Make your donation on February 8th or schedule your Giving Hearts Day donation at GivingHeartsDay.org

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