Agents of Change: Jeff Fields helps provide a lifeline to teens in crisis
Fields, an agent in Scottsdale, AZ, has made a "lifelong commitment" to Teen Lifeline, an organization working to eradicate teen suicide.
Editor's note: Across the country, agents are giving back to their communities and their industry. Here, we shine a light on people creating positive change and inspiring others to look for ways they can make a difference as well.
By the time Jeff Fields was 21, he had lost three friends to suicide.
So after graduating from the University of Arizona and going into real estate, he decided to do something about it.
"Teen Lifeline is a game-changer," he says of the organization he has volunteered at for the past decade. "It's a life-saving organization that really connects with people and helps point them in the right direction. The main mission is to provide positive mental health resources and, eventually, do what we can to eliminate teen suicide."
Fields, an agent with Russ Lyon Sotheby's International Realty in Scottsdale, isn't your run-of-the-mill volunteer. He was on Teen Lifeline's board of directors for nine years, served two terms as the board's president and is now on its advisory board. He estimates he's volunteered well over 5,000 hours and raised about $350,000 for the organization.
"It works, and it saves lives on a daily basis," Fields says. "Because of that, I wanted to really sink my teeth into it and help twofold by raising money and raising awareness. When you raise awareness, you save lives."
Teen Lifeline has been around for about 35 years and provides two main functions, according to Fields, who started his real estate career around the time he started volunteering.
First, the group runs a peer-to-peer hotline, staffed by teens who have gone through 90 hours of training. Those in trouble can call 602-248-8336 every day of the year from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. "Those calls are answered by our teens to help right the ship," Fields says. "Last year, about 43,000 calls came into the hotline, and a third were specifically conversations about suicide."
The second major program of Teen Lifeline is prevention and what they call "post-vention." The former includes volunteers going into schools to talk about healthy coping skills, and the latter happens if tragedies do occur. "Teen Lifeline is there to help the community overcome that tragedy," Fields says. "We want to prevent possible copycat situations from happening … The rippling pain can be devastating."
Volunteering has been a part of Fields' life for about as long as he can remember.
"That's just how I've been raised," he says. "I was volunteering at a very, very young age. Giving back to the community is so important. It helps create a balanced, healthy life. It was very important to me to find an organization to be able to make a difference."
When Fields joined the organization, it had three employees and a $300,000 budget. Now, he says, it has 15 employees and a budget of $1.5 million.
And it's not just Fields. His entire family is supporting his efforts and Teen Lifeline.
When Fields was contemplating getting involved, he ran it by his wife, Danielle, who told him she had been a peer volunteer for the group as a teen.
And the Fields' two children, 6-year-old Elle and 9-year-old Skyler, have gotten in on it too.
"About two years ago, they created an art gallery, which meant putting their pictures up on a wall, and they had a world premiere on social media to raise money," Fields says. "They brought in about $750."
Fields' work with Teen Lifeline has received national recognition. In 2020, he was one of five people around the country to win the National Association of Realtors Good Neighbor award.
Fields says he's "all-in, 100%" when it comes to continuing to work with Teen Lifeline.
"At this point, I think I've made a lifetime commitment to Teen Lifeline, and I don't see that ever changing," he says. "It really is another full-time job for me, only this job doesn't pay anything. In fact, I pay this job to be a part of it."