Longtime Crisis Hotline leader Sher Foster moves on
By Hayden Seder
When most people retire from a career, if they’re lucky, they can measure their success by how many lives they may have helped or changed. For Sher Foster, the metric is even more profound: how many lives she may have saved.
After 12 years serving as the executive director of the Crisis Hotline, Sher Foster announced her retirement in early February of this year. Through that position, Foster also served on the advisory council of the Wood River Valley’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-WRV). Whereas more than 12,000 residents have utilized the hotline since its inception, the number of lives Foster has saved figures to near that amount.
“I’m grateful that I’ve been able to help so many people over the years,” Foster said. “There have been a number of people who have come up to me at community events and functions that said they wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the Crisis Hotline.”
Filling Foster’s role at the hotline is new executive director Tammy Davis. As for Foster, she doesn’t have any specific retirement plans, at least not yet. But she was clear about one thing: “I have an art studio in my home and plan to spend time creating art again.”
After studying counseling in college and working a suicide hotline her senior year, Foster went on to work at a 24-hour walk-in crisis clinic in Seattle, which helped cement her interest in helping those in crisis.
“I realized how rewarding it can to help others in mental distress,” said Foster, who has worked the phone lines countless times, often taking over to handle a particularly difficult call.
Foster eventually moved to the Wood River Valley in the 1990s when she began volunteering at numerous nonprofits here, and then taking over the Crisis Hotline, an organization that has served the Valley for 32 years and is the only 24-hour hotline in Idaho.
Under Foster’s guidance, the Crisis Hotline began a school teen outreach program as well as worked to enhance programs every year by bringing in new professionals for different topics and services during a six-week crisis intervention training program for all volunteers each year. “We are always learning new skills,” Foster said. “It’s been a constant learning experience in how to help people in terms of listening skills, coping skills and how to give people the tools to help themselves in crisis.”
Foster also worked with Claudia Klokke, a social worker specializing in helping teens, to start the “My Life Matters” teen suicide awareness and prevention program in 2014. The program is credited with saving dozens of lives. In fact, since Blaine County School District implemented these intervention programs, there have been zero teen suicides.
The program is presented to all students at Wood River Middle School, Wood River High School, Silver Creek High School, Carey High School and Fairfield High School. Foster continued to work with schools by continuing the teen outreach program started in 2009 which provides important and pertinent information about serious concerns teens face, including abuse, relationship formation, and more.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve this community and to support countless people in crisis or in need of referrals,” Foster said. “I am deeply grateful to the many volunteers who have helped with the school programs, events, and the phone volunteers who have dedicated their time and support on the hotline phone and to the countless donors who have helped make our work possible.”
The Crisis Hotline provides caring and anonymous 24/7 telephone crisis intervention and referrals for anyone in need of support. The hotline can be reached at (208) 788-3596.