First Call for Help, which has traditionally been a telephone information and referral service, is now available on-line. The new on-line search option can be found at uwsandco.org (just click on the big red First Call for Help logo) and makes it easier for the community to access information about the valuable programs and services available in Sandusky County.
First Call for Help is a service that has been provided by United Way of Sandusky County for over 25 years. In addition to the 24-hour telephone hotline that was manned by staff and trained volunteers, the agency also maintained a printed directory of community resources for which to refer callers. In the past, updates to this printed directory could only be made once a year. Those days are over. According to Jill Simpson, Program Specialist at United Way of Sandusky, “Agencies now have the ability to log into our database and update their program and service information year-round, which helps keep our records current at all times.” Simpson adds, “When First Call for Help was initiated, people did not have access to cell phones or the internet, so this service served as a life-line to many community members in need who were unsure of where to turn for help. Times have changed, but the needs are still there. Moving the community resource directory to a user-friendly search engine on our website will make it easier for people to access our information. Those looking for assistance can go to our website, type in their zip code and a word or words describing their need, and a list of available programs and services appear with descriptions and contact information. This information can then be printed, emailed, or texted to someone’s cell phone.” As a result of the on-line resource directory being available 24 hours a day, 365 days a years, First Call for Help will no longer use an answering service to patch evening and weekend calls to volunteers. If someone in need does not have internet access, he/she can still get assistance by calling First Call for Help during office hours at 419-334- 2720.
In 2015, 2,097 calls were made to First Call for Help. Of those calls, 31% were for assistance with basic needs, such as help finding food, clothing, or shelter. Since the new on-line search option went live, there have already been 262 unique visitors to the site and 886 searches. First Call for Help will begin implementing plans this summer to get the word out to the public about the service and expects these numbers to grow as awareness increases.