February 6, 2009 — The 2-1-1 phone line answered at the United Way Call Center in St. Louis is ringing off the hook, and, it's no mystery why.
"We are in difficult times for a lot of people," says Martha Love, the Springfield-Greene County Library District's special projects coordinator, "2-1-1 is just what we need now. It's an easy-to-remember three-digit number that will yield all kinds of assistance."
Love, a certified resource specialist in addition to a reference librarian, says that the call center receives approximately 10,000 calls each month from Missourians who want to know how to find food pantries, shelters, utility assistance and hundreds of other health and human services. Callers can also locate their local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites.
The 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service covers 99 Missouri counties; another 2-1-1 service takes care of the 16 counties surrounding Kansas City. The service began in Atlanta in 1997, and, since then, has expanded to thousands of communities, regions and states. Currently, more than 75% of the population has access to a 2-1-1 call center.
Southwest Missouri joined the network in 2007 when John Rush, former director of the United Way of the Ozarks, was asked by the United Way of Greater St. Louis to help compile and update a database of about 2,000 nonprofit health and human service providers in 27 southwest Missouri counties.
"He told them that the Springfield-Greene County Library was the 'information place' and the experts at researching and gathering data," said Love. "The United Way of the Ozarks continues to help promote 2-1-1 among its 23 member agencies."
The 2-1-1 number is available to Missourians who have landlines and AT&T cell phone service. "Other cell phone providers are in the process of activating the number but, in the meantime," said Love, "Missourians can call 1-800-427-4626 to reach the call center, or they can access the searchable database used by the call center staff at 211missouri.org."
Wednesday [February 11] has been proclaimed 2-1-1 Day to encourage folks to spread the word, to tell someone—anyone—about this United Way- and Missouri Foundation for Health-funded service. In this time of dire need, I'm pretty sure the news will spread quickly.
-Jeanne Duffey, Community Relations Director, Springfield-Greene County Library District.
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