Meet The Agency Behind 211

During these unsettling times we sat down, through email, with the CEO of The Helpline Center, Janet Kittams. As one of the leading organziations in our community during COVID-19, we wanted to learn more about the impact The Helpline Center is making in our community.  The Helpline Center is a funded agency of Sioux Empire United Way and we are proud of all the work they do for our community. 
Please visit for COVID-19 resources and updates.
What is Helpline Center’s role with COVID-19? 
We are responding to and assisting individuals when they call 211. Whether it’s answering COVID-19 specific questions, helping those who might need rent assistance through the One Sioux Falls fund, or providing referrals to food resources and other basic needs. We also want individuals to remember that they aren’t alone and we’re committed to providing hope during this stressful and uncertain time.
How does that compare to your normal agency operations?
Some of our normal agency operations are temporarily on hold like events and trainings. Our entire staff is working in their respective roles and also are playing a key role in our COVID-19 crisis response.
How have questions around COVID-19 evolved as people learn more about the virus?
The questions have definitely evolved over time. There is fear and concern and a definite desire from people that want to do the right things to protect themselves and others. Initially calls were information questions about the virus, how it spreads, and education on social distancing, isolations, and quarantine. As time has passed, individuals now calling are concerned about today and the weeks ahead and how they can get through it and are primarily seeking resources for food and financial assistance for rent.
What has been the biggest learning curve as a leader or as a leading organization?
In most of our response efforts, we’re able to predict and determine the needs and respond accordingly. The COVID-19 response is literally changing by the moment, so our response needs to adapt and thankfully we have the right team to make that happen.
What are you as a leading organization most thankful for?
We’re thankful for the support we’ve received from our community and even in the midst of this, we hear from individuals who are so grateful we’re here to answer their call.
Something or someone you couldn’t have done all of this without?
We couldn’t have done any of this without our incredible staff. Everyone in our organization has taken on additional tasks and are committed to making an impact in this response.
How are you encouraging your employees to self-care during these unusual times in your office/ call center?
We’ve made a concerted effort to encourage remote working as well as providing time off. It’s vitally important that we promote self-care due to the expanded workload and stressful nature of the pandemic.
First thing you plan to do when there is less of a need for social distancing?
We can’t wait to plan and host events and bring groups back together!
What is something you see changing or hope will change as a result of COVID-19 or through our community’s response to the virus?
I think those changes are already starting to happen and we’ve seen and heard so many positive stories. It would be great if we can all hold onto the true importance of community and never take that for granted again.
Quick Facts:
What is your average call volume on a “normal” day?
What has it been with answering calls in relation to COVID-19? On a normal day, the Helpline might average 160 calls a day and now in relation to COVID-19, the Helpline has been answering about 310 calls a day.
How many staff within Helpline Center?
The Helpline Center has 43 staff members
What is our current biggest community need?
Currently, based on the needs of our callers, the needs are focused on food and financial assistance for housing.