CONTACT of Northern Illinois – Operating During The Pandemic Through Our Volunteer Base

FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — CONTACT of Northern Illinois is a 24 hour crisis helpline that services our community and works to ensure that all in need have a listening ear and referral to services.

CONTACT is proud that during the pandemic we have been able to maintain our 24 hours service since the Shelter in Place order was initiated by the Governor. We were fortunate that our 5 volunteers and two staff worked the incoming calls, each taking a 24 hour shift during the weeks of the Shelter in Place.

Volunteers maintained our Reassurance Program, making phone calls out to individuals with medication reminders, welfare checks and daily check in’s. During these phone calls volunteers ensured that the client had food, a means to pay utilities, rent and their medications were in supply.

Volunteers taking the incoming calls were able to make referrals out to the resources available in our area, doing 88 referrals to services from March 22nd to March 31st. Calls increased during this time frame from 1,500 monthly to over 2,500 calls monthly and has held at over 2,300 calls monthly since the Shelter in Place was lifted.

CONTACT became the point of connection for the Community Organizations Assisting in Disaster (COAD), ensuring those that couldn’t get out, had food or medicine delivered to them by coordinating the services with COAD volunteers.

During the months to follow CONTACT maintained the crisis helpline with the help of these wonderful volunteers. CONTACT staff worked to ensure they were up to date on resources and passed the information on to volunteers. This included food pantries, utility help, unemployment, homelessness, rent or mortgage payments, connection to mental health professionals, when necessary, and how residents could check on the status of their stimulus check to name just a few.

A month into the pandemic, CONTACT began working with FHN Mobil Pantry and Joseph Pantry on a COVID-19 Relief Box. This box was for individuals that tested positive with COVID or were put in quarantine. FHN, the Health Department and Senior Resource Center gave a voucher number to individuals that might need the relief box – they called CONTACT with the voucher and CONTACT collected information from them – how many in the house, address, phone number, etc. then passed on the information to Joseph Pantry who was in charge of getting the relief box together. CONTACT than coordinated delivery of the boxes to the individuals at times delivering over 25 boxes a week for the first week delivery. This relief box had staples like tuna, chicken, macaroni and cheese, crackers, peanut butter and such to help them during their quarantine. This box was delivered once a week for 2 weeks so there were weeks that we coordinated delivery of 40 boxes or more.

CONTACT continues to work with this group and is working with them on an additional phase to the program to help the residents in our community as we continue to work through the changes with this pandemic.

CONTACT has moved into phase 4 and has opened the office for volunteers giving them the choice to work from home if necessary. The only difference from the first Shelter in Place and Phase 4 is that volunteers are handling both incoming and outgoing phone calls. This proved to be a challenge for CONTACT as we worked to ensure that all of our volunteers had the information necessary to give updated information and referrals to clients.

Our volunteers take their work very seriously and are adamant that they provide correct and up to date information to callers.

CONTACT of Northern Illinois is looking to recruit new volunteers and looking for avenues of securing income with the loss of some fundraisers: Below are a couple of ways you can help keep CONTACT going and providing this valuable service to our community.

– Become a Volunteer with CONTACT – we are currently working on a virtual training with internships in the office.

– Become part of our Fund-A-Day program – for $250.00 you can fund a day at CONTACT to keep the crisis line open.

– Like our Facebook page and take part in any virtual events we have.

– Share our Facebook page with your friends and help us grow our friend base.

– Spread the word that we are available 24/7 for anyone in need.

With CONTACT – help really is just a phone call away! 815-233-4357

Candy Macklin, Director Marketing and Fundraising

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