Helpline connecting those in need with agencies still operating amid crisis

Calls to the United Way of Greater Dayton’s social service helpline HelpLink 211 have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly from people seeking help finding food, or assistance with rent and utilities, agency officials say.

Compared to the same time period last year, the agency has seen a 53 percent increase in calls from Warren County, 30 percent spike from Butler County and 29 percent increase from Montgomery County.

As records numbers of Ohioans are losing their jobs amid the pandemic, many people who have never had to ask for assistance before don’t know where to turn. People who dial 211 are put in contact with workers who can help them understand what services are available. They also offer an online resource directory.

HelpLink director Rosalie Bonacci-Roberts said her 16 employees are working around the clock and so far have been able to handle the demand with call wait times of only up to 90 seconds.

A bigger challenge, she said, is keeping track of which of the 1,000-plus agencies they work with are open and offering services as many local non-profits, churches and government agencies are scaling back services.

Some agencies are having a hard time staffing operations because they rely on older volunteers who are staying home for safety reasons. Other agencies are simply going broke.

“Most organizations impacted by health concerns and/or financial considerations have reduced or discontinued face-to-face meetings with the public, redirected their mission focus or have curtailed or suspended operations,” she said.

She said they are in daily contact with agencies in the nine counties they support to keep on top of this.

They are always looking for new partners, she said. An agency can register for HelpLink on the website.

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The agency has also partnered with the Living City Project to try to match up volunteers with groups who need them during the health crisis with an online tool.

Living City Project director Caleb Ingram said the biggest need is for people to help deliver food to homes of people who can’t get to pantries or grocery stores. He said local social service organizations have learned from last year’s tornadoes how to scale up quickly to respond to a crisis, but this is different.

“This is a really challenging time in that we find ourselves torn in wanting to stay home for safety, which is valid, and there is great needs that need to be addressed at the same time,” he said. “It’s a call to the younger generation to rise up and get out there and serve.”

How to find help

United Way HelpLink 211 connects people to social services, such as food and rent/utility assistance, in the following counties: Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Greene, Madison, Montgomery, Preble, Warren

Search available resources online at

Or call 211 to be connected to someone at the agency’s call center

How to help

Register your agency as a resource on HelpLink at

Or visit to register as a volunteer

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