Jerilyn smiles while standing in Distress Centre Calgary's call centre

I never intended to be a social worker. As a psychology undergraduate student looking to build practical skills, I started volunteering at Distress Centre Calgary, a United Way funded agency, nearly two decades ago. The experience changed the direction of my life.

When I learned about the agency’s crisis line and on-site counselling services, I was amazed. There were times, growing up in a small town, when I didn’t have anyone to talk to. To be able to call a line where you know someone is there waiting for your call—that would have meant the world to me.



Volunteering at the agency’s 24-hour 211 telephone line, which helps people at all levels of distress, inspired me to pursue a master’s degree in social work.

Today, I am the agency’s executive director, and I provide leadership to a team of dedicated and compassionate staff and volunteers, many of whom have experienced their own personal struggles.

The crisis line is a critical community service, especially for the one in five people who will struggle with a mental illness in any given year. I am grateful to United Way donors who are instrumental in enabling us to provide this vital service in our community. I definitely wouldn’t be the person that I am today without the Distress Centre.

We are all Calgary.

Together, we are all stronger. Meet a few of the 178,700 people who are helped each year.

Read more stories

How you can help

Share 211

211 is a 24/7 helpline available in over 150 languages that connects people with supports.

Learn more


Support programs like 211 to help end poverty, help kids succeed, and build strong communities.

Give today