What does FirstLink do?

FirstLink assists people to identify, access, and make effective use of community and volunteer resources 24 hours a day. It’s the first link to connect people to resources.

Annual Report

Take a quick look at the impact and progress FirstLink made during the past fiscal year.

2018 Annual Report


American Association of Suicidology (AAS)

American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is a membership organization for all those involved in suicide prevention and intervention, or touched by suicide. AAS is a leader in the advancement of scientific and programmatic efforts in suicide prevention through research, education and training, the development of standards and resources, and survivor support services.

Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS)

The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) improves access to services for all people through quality information and referral. AIRS provides a professional umbrella for all I&R providers in both public and private organizations. Comprehensive and specialized I&R programs help people in every community and operate as a critical component of the health and human service delivery system.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers, provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night.

Board of Directors

Christine Club | Board Chair

Norm Robinson | External Chair

Sara Monson | Governance Chair

Christel Schmidt | Internal Chair

Jessica Mack | Internal

Leann Wallin | Internal

Sheena Sando | External

Dean Haaland | Governance

Austen McFarren | Internal

Hollie McLean | Governance

Marty Riske | External

Thomas Tweten | External

Eston Taylor | External

FirstLink History


Volunteer Community Service began.


Volunteers for Community Services incorporated.


HotLine incorporated. Volunteer operated from 7 pm-1 am each day.


First organized Holiday Clearing Bureau effort.


First collaborative effort with the American Legion Toy Project and the Holiday Clearing Bureau.


HotLine, Inc. became a 24-hour program following the merger of the Suicide Prevention Line previously answered at St. Lukes Hospital (now Sanford) and Southeast Human Service Center.


Volunteers for Community Service and HotLine, Inc. merged – became HotLine Community Services. Programs included:

  • HotLine (24-hour) telephone listening and support, crisis intervention, information and referral.
  • Comprehensive Information and Referral program
  • Volunteer Center
  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • Emergency Services (This N That Shop, Emergency Food Pantry, Inc.)


HotLine Community Services merged with United Way of Cass-Clay and became Community Resource Division.


Became accredited through American Association of Suicidology (AAS).


HotLine accepted responsibility for the YWCA Phone Friend telephone warm line.


United Way’s Community Resources Division became a nonprofit subsidiary of
 United Way of Cass-Clay and became Community Resources, Inc. Programs included:

  • Coats for Kids
  • Phone Friend
  • Gifts in Kind
  • Management Assistance Program
  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • Volunteer Center
  • HotLine


Community Resources, Inc. was reorganized and a full-time director was hired. Community Resources, Inc. programs included:

  • Coats for Kids
  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • HotLine (initiated CARRIER ALERT and Suicide Survivors Support Group;
  • Phone Friend merged into HotLine telephone lines)
  • Volunteer Center
  • PEW Cultural Diversity Project (Fiscal administration)
  • United Way maintained the Gifts in Kind and Management Assistance Program
  • Suicide Survivors’ Support Group began


Community Resources, Inc. discontinued their partnership in the Coats For Kids program (October)


United Way of Cass-Clay and Community Resources, Inc. dissolved their parent/subsidiary relationship (January). Community Resources, Inc. became its own free standing nonprofit organization. Programs included:

  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • HotLine
  • Volunteer Center
  • PEW Cultural Diversity Project (Fiscal administration)


Began Suicide Education Outreach in local schools


The Volunteer Center initiated the Nonprofit Board Development Training (January)


Community Resources, Inc. changed its name to FirstLink and reorganized. Programs included:

  • Department of Information and Crisis Services
  • Department of Volunteer Services
  • Department of Community Outreach
  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • Experienced Parent Project


Reorganized.  Programs Included:

  • Crisis and Suicide Intervention Services
  • Listening and Support Services
  • Information and Referral Services (including volunteer resources)
  • Holiday Clearing Bureau
  • Experienced Parent Project


Director of Volunteer Center was hired and Disaster Volunteer Coordination is re-established.Community Emergency Response TEAM (CERT) training is established under the Volunteer Center. FirstLink administrative office moves to new location on 13th Avenue, in Fargo.


Holiday Clearing Bureau changed its name to Season of Hope and partnered with The Salvation Army to distribute holiday gifts and food baskets.


FirstLink began providing 2-1-1 service for calls that originate in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN.  Received the Crisis Center Award for Community Engagement from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL).  Began offering LivingWorks Education’s Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop to community members.


FirstLink received accreditation from the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS).  The first Teen CERT class was held at West Fargo High School.  Experienced Parent Project was no longer a project at FirstLink.

Photo: FirstLink coordinated the response saving Fargo-Moorhead in the 2009 flood. 


FirstLink received the 2-1-1 designation for the entire state of North Dakota.  CERT/Teen CERT was given back to Cass County Emergency Managers/NDSU Emergency Management Department.  Partnered with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and began Volunteer Appreciation Night.  Created the Community Volunteer Workshop.  Holiday gift-giving program was restructured and renamed to Giving Tree of Hope. Programs Included:

  • Information and Crisis Services
  • Volunteer Center
  • Giving Tree of Hope



FirstLink began to refer to the 24-hour 2-1-1 service (formerly HotLine) as the FirstLink 2-1-1 Helpline.  Receives re-accreditation through American Association of Suicidology (AAS). Began the Nonprofit Opportunity Fair with NDSU to connect volunteers.


FirstLink receives certification as a Child Abduction Response Team (CART) member. Began an Ongoing Suicide Follow-up Program funded by the North Dakota Department of Health.


FirstLink’s Giving Tree of Hope program partnered with Toys for Tots to provide holiday gifts to those in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN.


FirstLink’s Statewide Suicide Follow-up Call Team received the Partnership Building Award from the North Dakota Association of Nonprofits, recognizing community leadership.


FirstLink expanded the Giving Tree of Hope program by becoming the local Toys for Tots coordinator.  Began offering Mental Health First Aid USA trainings to the community.  The Volunteer Center became known as the Volunteer Network.


FirstLink receives re-accreditation through Alliance of Information and Referral Services (AIRS).  Began offering LivingWorks Education’s safeTALK alertness workshop to the community.  Began offering Youth Mental Health First Aid USA to adults who regularly interact with young people. Hit a milestone by handling the millionth call.


FirstLink added a Community Navigator program to help connect those who are struggling with addiction or have a loved one struggling with addiction to resources. We were also able to begin offering texting for our 211 line so community members can find resources, listening and support, and crisis intervention by texting their zip code to 898-211.