DECEMBER 2002

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In Focus: Fiodhna O’Grady, Director of Operations for Samaritans of New York
From Irish Voice
November 20 - 26, 2002

By Georgina Brennan

Where do you come from?
"I arrived in New York from Dublin via Mallow, Cork, many years ago (I won’t say when!) having worked for one year after a social science degree from UCD. The Celtic Tiger was not a creature of my time, and many of my college mates were leaving for jobs abroad. Then I landed in New York, and felt instantly at home. I have lived here since.

I met my husband, Ernie Giordani, here in New York through a mutual friend. At the time, in the 1980s, I was living large in the East Village and he swept me off my feet on a blind date arriving from the Long Island suburbs, which seemed like a foreign country at the time. The rest is history and two fabulous kids later, Robin, 9, and Miles, 6."


What’s your job about?

"In Ireland the Samaritans is a household name akin to the Red Cross or Salvation Army here. It’s been an uphill battle to get promotion for Samaritans. We wish we had that name recognition here that we have in Ireland and in England.

Samaritans of New York is part of an international network with over 400 crisis centers in 32 countries worldwide providing emotional support through befriending. Here in New York, we operate a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 212-673-3000, public education programs in schools and non profit organizations, as well as support groups for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The 100 volunteers who operate the hotline are such a vibrant cross section of New Yorkers – of course that includes a fine quota of Irish immigrants and Irish Americans – and tend to be good listeners and communicators. That makes working here lively, interesting and fun-filled despite the seriousness of the topic. I had worked in advertising and fashion prior to Samaritans, but working to help others really adds some meaning to your daily life."

Can you describe a typical day?
"Contrary to popular misconceptions, a day in the life at Samaritans is fun-filled, non-profit business life where people like myself work behind the scenes in contract management, program planning and fundraising. Then we have the hotline service right on site which is about volunteers being there for callers in hard times when family or friends might not understand or are not around, something our new television advertisement captured quite well. That’s a Samaritans day, being there when people need someone to talk to, someone who will listen and take you seriously. We like to send a message out that it’s okay to talk about your feelings, that things like depression and anxiety are very real stuff and getting help is a sign of intelligence and strength, not weakness. So, reaching out to the non-religious Samaritans is a safe and confidential first step."

How can people get more information about the Samaritans?
"For those who think they would like to volunteer, they can call our recruitment line 212-673-3041 or apply online at www.volunteermatch.com. They can also visit www.samaritansnyc.org. And the hotline number is 212-673-3000 where they can talk confidentially 24-

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