In its initial days of operation, the employees operating the city of Grove City's call center logged questions and concerns that ranged from adults requesting welfare checks on their elderly parents to home-bound residents seeking assistance in having their prescriptions picked up.

The city opened the call center March 23 to help residents and business owners with their COVID-19 coronavirus questions and concerns.

"It's a one-stop community resource line," recreation supervisor Kelly Sutherland said. "The call center is the hub that can provide people with the information they need or connect them to the resources that can give them the information or assistance they need."

"The primary purpose of the call center is to be a clearing house that residents can call when they're looking for information or resources during this difficult time," Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

In addition to taking in-bound calls, the center's staff is making calls to check on residents, with the first priority being the city's senior-citizen population, he said.

"We made about 170 calls (March 24) and around 200 (the next day), and we'll continue to make the outbound calls going forward," Stage said.

The city is using the roster of senior residents who participate in the Evans Senior Center's programs and activities, including the free bus service that offers rides to area medical offices and stores and activities at the center, he said.

The idea for the call center came up in a city staff meeting, Sutherland said.

"Kelley Davidson, the communications manager with our police department, raised the concern that with our city offices closed to the public, our dispatchers might get a lot of nonemergency calls relating to the coronavirus," she said.

The call center allows the city to reroute those types of calls and free up the dispatchers for police, fire and EMS calls.

The call center is available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week at 614-277-3560.

The center is operating out of the Evans Senior Center, 3880 Dudley Ave.

Four phone lines are set up and are operated by employees who normally would be running the city's Programmed After-school Recreation for Kids after-school child-care program and Evans Senior Center staff, Sutherland said.

"We have one person stationed at a phone in the room where the daily lunches are usually served, two people in offices with phones and another at the front desk," she said. "We're practicing the social distancing protocols to make sure they aren't within six feet of one another."

After the first four days, the call center had received 36 calls, Sutherland said.

The calls included 11 requesting welfare checks on adults, six with general questions about the coronavirus, five seeking help with food needs, four seeking medical assistance, one needing repair assistance and seven miscellaneous requests. The center received six calls from people interested in volunteering, she said.

"We're taking some general coronavirus questions, but if it's an emergency, requires medical care or something that requires someone to visit the person to assist them, we'll transfer the call to our police department or the Jackson Township Fire Department," Sutherland said.

One person called because an fire alarm was not functioning and arrangements were made to send someone from the fire department, she said.

"They needed to get the battery replaced, and they weren't able to go out to get one," Sutherland said.

The city also has established a separate number, 614-277-3561, that residents can call to volunteer to help with community-service projects, Sutherland said.

"There are a number of local efforts that are underway, including a project to make face masks and an effort to help make food deliveries for the Grove City Food Pantry," she said.

Residents may leave a message with their name, email and phone number to find out more, Sutherland said.

Although the call center has been put in place because of the coronavirus crisis, the service could be used in case of other emergencies, such as tornados or major snowstorms, she said.

"We're giving our residents some important assistance now, but this is also serving as a sort of a practice run for a potential situation where people are needing help because they've lost power at their home or can't get out to get food because of a weather-related incident," Sutherland said.

"It's a great example of the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention," she said.

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