When COVID-19 hit, Salvation Army Northeast Ohio Division faced a conundrum. Its more than 50 community centers, which help those in need, experienced increased demand due to the pandemic. At the same time, the centers operated with fewer workers because of the pandemic-related economic downturn, making it harder to serve clients.
For example, at Salvation Army’s Ashland Kroc location, where food is normally distributed inside, clients were asked to line up in cars to avoid spreading the virus. As workers carried food outside, they had no access to the phones and Wi-Fi they needed to assist those in line.
Luckily, the Ashland Kroc location has been receiving phone and internet service from Ohio.net, a Doylestown firm that provides internet-based phone services to homes, businesses and nonprofits. Ohio.net was able to furnish an outside phone/internet connection at the Ashland Kroc center.
“We’ve been on overdrive since the start of the pandemic,” says Heidi Yokom, director of information technology at Salvation Army Northeast Ohio Division. “Ohio.net has helped us function efficiently during this time.”
Salvation Army Northeast Ohio has purchased internet service from Ohio.net for about 20 years and is in the process of switching to the firm for phone service. So far, 14 Salvation Army Northeast Ohio locations have phone accounts with Ohio.net.
Salvation Army is a part of Ohio.net’s Nonprofit Technology Stewardship Program, in which businesses and nonprofits donate old phones and hardware to Ohio.net. The company refurbishes the equipment and gives them at no cost to other growing nonprofits or nonprofits with small staffs, then provides phone service at a discount.
In some Salvation Army community centers, Ohio.net has replaced old, deteriorating landlines with “voice-over internet protocol,” or VOIP. It’s a phone service that exists in the internet cloud, and it’s just what Salvation Army needed.
“In some [Salvation Army] locations, they were working with phone technology that was so outdated it was hard to communicate or function like a normal organization,” says Alex Desberg, Ohio.net’s sales and marketing director.
VOIP customers can add features, such as the ability to send voicemail to email without having to buy a new phone system or tinkering with the existing system.
VOIP also comes with an automated attendant, which routes calls based on voice prompts, as well as conference bridging, which creates audio conference rooms. It can record calls and transfer a call to another extension if the first extension is busy.
For Salvation Army, the Nonprofit Technology Stewardship Program and VOIP have meant huge savings. One service center, for example, was paying $845 a month for two fax lines and two alarm lines. Working with Ohio.net, all four lines were replaced with Wi-Fi service, and now Salvation Army pays less than $100 a month.
Yokom says Salvation Army’s Canton community center was paying $850 a month for its phone and fax service. Ohio.net reduced that to $220 by replacing disintegrating copper landlines with VOIP.
“Ohio.net has helped us save hundreds of dollars per month at 15 locations, and it gave us refurbished phones,” Yokom says. “Over three years, we’ll save hundreds of thousands of dollars.”