Navigator, connector and guiding force behind the community’s only centralized information database is retiring, leaving behind a legacy of over two decades of evolutionary access and connection to critical health, community and social services and information – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mary Damico, HelpLine Information and Referral (I&R)/2-1-1 Director, will step down at the end of May.
“Mary’s passion and efforts grew the I&R program to where it is today, and she leaves it having made a meaningful images on how our community find, access and engage with emerging and evolving health and human service information,” said Susan Hanson, Executive Director of HelpLine. “Her commitment to helping our community navigate resources, unyielding diligence coupled with her sense of adventure will be missed.”
Damico joined HelpLine as a volunteer in 1990. Three years later, she was hired as a full-time I&R specialist who worked to maintain and manage the database of community resources, information materials, procedural notebooks all used by hotline workers to assist callers on the 2-1-1/1-800-684-2324 hotline. In 1995, Damico became an Iris expert as the agency began using this system to house client records and referrals, which were previously hand written. She managed several moves, upgrades and staff transitions including the move to the 11. N. Franklin Street location, merging of the I&R databases of the HopeLine and Help Anonymous to form HelpLine and moving of a printed database to an online platform.
In addition to her I&R responsibilities, Damico directed emergency financial assistance efforts in Delaware and Morrow counties ensuring basic needs such a food, housing and utility needs were met for individuals in crisis. With her love of all things information, she also managed the technology landscape of HelpLine.
“She’s our go-to for all things technical as well,” said Tiana Purvis, Associate Director of HelpLine. “Whether it’s setting up voicemail, email, employee workstations, setting up the computer network or increasingly sophisticated cloud-based systems, Mary has taken the lead in maintaining our technology environment – a part of her role that just morphed, but speaks to her ‘can do’ attitude and willingness to learn as any stage in her tenure.”
Over her 25-year career, she helped the agency evolve technologically, moving from using a physical rolodex for services to a computer database that houses nearly 4,500 community resources. Other career accomplishments include:
- Assisted with HelpLine in becoming the first agency in Ohio to publicly launch 2-1-1
- Positioned HelpLine to become nationally accredited by AIRS for the first time in 2003, and twice more since then.
- Became certified as an Information & Referral Specialist and a Certified Resource Specialist, one of only 300 in the entire country.
“Mary has built a strong reputation for knowing community resources,” said Hanson. “She’s served on the OhioAIRS Board, chaired the Agency Conference Group in Delaware County, and was responsible for spearheading the reactivation of the Salvation Army unit in Morrow County – bringing back essential funds to help that community. Mary can be proud of the impact she has made the area of connecting people to services in our community for over 25 years!”
When it comes to retirement, Damico is looking forward to spend more time with her friends, family – especially her new granddaughter she welcome in April. An avid outdoors woman, traveling and trails is always a part of her landscape. However, she still plans to remain involved in her community and in the works she’s done for the past two decades.
“I think I’ll always be involved in some aspect of information and referral, as I’m a natural connector – and it’s become such a major part of me,” said Damico. “However, the great thing about retirement is I can pick and choose when to turn that part of me on and off.”
Jodi Peterson-Sonstein, Hotline Director, will assume many of the responsibilities of the I&R role upon Mary’s last day. She will lead the merger between the Hotline and I&R departments, hoping for a seamless integration. Peterson-Sonstein’s new title will be Hotline and I&R Director, effective June 1.
Join us for a Retirement Celebration on Thursday, May 31, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Andrews House. RSVP by May 24 to the HelpLine business office at 740.363.1835.