BRADENTON, Fla. — When Manatee County started their 311 helpline one year ago, they had no idea it would become a life-line for so many.
When Theresa McDaniel became a 311 information specialist last year the purpose was for people to report potholes, broken sidewalks and other county issues.
"That was kind of the premise for 311 was to provide excellent service without having to transfer, and then COVID hit," said McDaniel.
People called in asking about COVID symptoms and where to get tested, and the helpline quickly turned to a lifeline.
When vaccines became available, Manatee County was one of the first in the Tampa Bay area to start successfully vaccinating because they had a call center in place to walk seniors through setting up their appointment.
"One of the first gentlemen I called cried. When I told him he was picked from the vaccine pool he cried," said Marcia Bacon, 311 supervisor.
The call center went from four employees to more than 40 who now take 4,000 to 6,000 calls a day and get to call seniors to let them know they were selected from the random lottery to get the vaccine.
"I love making people happy," said McDaniel.