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The Listening Ear Crisis Hotline
(517) 337-1717 (24-hour Crisis Line)
(517) 337-1728 (Business Line)

   "Sometimes it hurts too much not to talk... That's the worst, when the secret stays locked up for want of an understanding ear."


If you're feeling suicidal, please click here first. 

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Interested in helping people in crisis?  The Listening Ear trains new volunteers three times a year.

To find out about the next training program and how to become a crisis counselor please check the Calendar and Volunteer section or contact us.

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A History of The Listening Ear

Records from the early days of the Ear are scarce.  This timeline was pieced together from old articles and meeting minutes, and is far from complete.  If you have information about those days or corrections to the history posted here, please contact theear@msu.edu, or leave a message at 337-1728. 

May 21, 1969 A meeting was held with the MSU Director of Student Activities and individuals involved with community mental health, secondary schools, the state legislature, enforcement agencies, community organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, human relations, and religious organizations both from Michigan State University and the community at large.  A presentation was made proposing the establishment of a volunteer crisis center.  While people raised questions as to the feasibility, the overall reaction was positive.
July 15, 1969 The Listening Ear opened its doors at 547 1/2 East Grand River.  The first training session was designed by Dr. Dozier Thornton, a psychology professor from Michigan State University.  The program ran for 40 hours (this quickly grew into the 60+ hour training of today).

The founders decided that they would stay open if they received at least 100 calls each month for the first three months.  They received more than 1500.  The Listening Ear was the first crisis center in Michigan, and the first all-volunteer crisis center in the United States.  The annual operating budget in those early days was about $6000.

February 7, 1972 The Problem Pregnancy Counseling program began.  PPC counselors did weekly shifts in addition to regular crisis shifts.  They counseled girls and women dealing with pregnancy and abortion.  While the program started out slow, by August they were receiving more calls "than could comfortably be handled."  The program ran for two years, and was phased out around May of 1974.
July 15, 1974 Fifth anniversary open house held at the Ear from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.
November, 1974 The Ear considered moving to the Hagadorn Professional Building.  After extensive discussion, it was decided by consensus vote not to relocate.
July, 1976 The Rape Counseling program, (the forerunner of the Sexual Assault Counseling program), was established, providing free, short-term counseling to rape survivors as well as advocacy and community education.
February 20, 1977 Rape Counseling was renamed Sexual Assault Counseling.
October 9, 1977 Earliest written reference to the JCC (named the "Journal of Creative Communication")
July 15, 1979 The Ear celebrated its tenth anniversary with a three-day festival and general shindig.  By this point, The Listening Ear had handled more than 100,000 calls and walk-ins.

(As a side note, meeting minutes from this time period still include comments like "Far out!")

May 13, 1982 For a fundraiser, Ear volunteers completed a 42-hour volleyball marathon.  (Sadly, the Ear missed breaking the world record by approximately 30 hours.  Still, two days of non-stop volleyball is nothing to sneer at).
April 23, 1983 SAC co-sponsored the East Lansing Take Back the Night march for the first time.
November 12, 1989 Listening Ear 20th Anniversary Bash, held at the Holiday Inn.  Our annual operating budget had now grown to $27,000.
April 13, 1990 The Listening Ear was named the 113th of 1000 Points of Light for our "outstanding efforts in behalf of [the] community" by President George Bush (the First).
December, 1991 The Listening Ear moved to 325 Grove St. near the "Habitrail" parking garage on Grand River.
May, 1993 After a brief stay at the new building, the Ear once again relocated - this time to 423 Albert St.
March, 1994 The Ear entered the computer age with a new DeskJet printer.  Meeting minutes were no longer printed on illegible dot matrix printers.  Instead, a wide variety of new and exotic fonts were used to make meeting minutes equally illegible.
September 18, 1994 25th Anniversary Celebration held in Patriarch Park.
June 27, 1998 The first annual Bob's Run was held in memory of Bob Forsythe.  The run raised $7500 for The Listening Ear in this first year, and has been a well-attended and important community event ever since.
August 7, 1999 30th Anniversary Picnic, because Listening Ear volunteers never seem to tire of parties and celebration.
April 1, 2000 Happy April Fool's Day!  With the help of Two Men and a Truck, The Listening Ear moved from 423 Albert St. to 1017 East Grand River.  This is the Ear's fourth home over the past 31 years.
April 1, 2003 Continuing the new April Fool's Day tradition, the Listening Ear moved up the street to our current location at 313 West Grand River Avenue, in East Lansing, Michigan.
April 28, 2003 The Listening Ear was honored with East Lansing's Crystal Award, given to individuals, groups, organizations or businesses who have made valuable contributions to the quality of life in East Lansing.
Today The Listening Ear continues its more than 36 year tradition of providing 24-hour free crisis services to anyone in need.  Since our inception in 1969, we have talked to more than 300,000 callers and walk-ins.  We are the oldest operating crisis center in the nation.  Our training program has been used as a model for programs across the country.  We have provided several thousand volunteers with what many describe as the most powerful growth experience of their lives.