Rhonda Terry, the director of human services in Southfield, places food items into bags at City Hall. Terry has spearheaded the city’s COVID-19 hotline initiative by helping residents without internet access apply for a vaccine appointment.

Rhonda Terry, the director of human services in Southfield, places food items into bags at City Hall. Terry has spearheaded the city’s COVID-19 hotline initiative by helping residents without internet access apply for a vaccine appointment.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Southfield sets up COVID-19 hotline to assist residents

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published March 23, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — The Southfield Human Services Department consists of one woman — Rhonda Terry.

Terry has been working for the city for almost a quarter of a century now, and she has most recently spearheaded the effort to register residents for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The idea for the COVID-19 hotline started when Southfield and Oakland County officials partnered for a testing site. From there, the partnership grew to a vaccine site at the Southfield Pavilion.

As more Southfield residents became tested and vaccinated, it became clear that there were residents who did not have a computer or internet access. Since Feb. 5, Terry estimates fielding over 1,000 calls, either answering questions or registering residents for a vaccine appointment.

“We believe in customer service and we believe in helping our residents, especially our seniors, who sometimes just get frustrated with what’s going on right now,” Terry said. “They feel isolated. They don’t have a computer, and they aren’t able to visit their family. They’re nervous about the vaccine and the testing. We’re just trying to make their lives a little easier by at least helping them to get registered.”

Residents can reach the hotline by calling Terry’s office at (248) 796-4529. The hotline accepts calls 24/7, but Terry is only available to return calls 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Callers should leave their name and phone number for a call back. Staff will return calls as received to get more information to register residents for the first available vaccine appointment for which they are eligible.

Terry said those who call but are not able to speak to her directly should get a call back within 24-48 hours.

“She has been absolutely tremendous,” Southfield Mayor Ken Siver said. “She’s not doing just the hotline. She’s helping people with rental assistance, food assistance, utility payments and all that sort of thing. She’s been doing it for a very long time, and she’s good at it.”

Terry called the job “very rewarding.” Even in the event that she is unable to help a resident, she has the tools needed to seek help for anyone who needs it.

“I treat people like I would like to be treated,” she said. “Whether or not I can help you, I’m going to call you back and either tell you I can help you or refer you to another agency or somebody that can help you.”

Siver said city officials are sensitive to the fact that some of the older, and even younger residents, do not have a computer or internet access.

“We wanted to help in any way we could so that people could register to get the vaccine,” Siver said. “This is just something we did to help out.”

Major pharmacies including Meijer, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens have all announced they will also be offering the vaccine to those who qualify to receive it when they are able to administer it. Many other health care providers, insurance carriers and nonprofit organizations will be offering appointments for vaccination. Residents are advised to check those direct websites frequently for further information.

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