November 13, 2009 —
A mother needs a tutor for her third-grader. A senior citizen needs free tax-preparation assistance. A new arrival to this country wants to enroll in citizenship classes. Economic troubles force a family to search for help with their utility bills.
No matter where they live in Missouri, there is one, simple telephone number they can call 2-1-1. It’s accessible from land lines and AT&T and Verizon cell phones; other cell phone users can call 800-427-4626.
It’s a free, confidential, 24/7 help line run by United Way of Greater St. Louis and staffed by trained specialists who quickly assess the callers’ needs and refer them to the help they seek.
The 2-1-1 Call Center is located at United Way of Greater St. Louis, with data collection hubs in Columbia, Rolla, St. Louis and Springfield. United Way of the Ozarks is one of 10 United Ways involved in the project.
Martha Love, the Springfield-Greene County Library District’s Special Projects Coordinator, is the resource specialist for the 27-county southwest Missouri region. She constantly adds social service resources and organizations to the 2-1-1 database so the 2-1-1 operators always have the most up-to-date, local resources for callers.
This month marks the second anniversary of the project’s statewide launch, and use has grown.
Greene County calls to 2-1-1 totaled 1,066 in 2008; calls in 2009 so far have already hit 2,187.
The number of calls from the 27-county region totaled 2,736 in 2008; that number totaled 4,692 during the same period in 2009, Love said.
Overall, more than 200,000 calls resulting in 222,730 referral requests have been handled by United Way 2-1-1 of Missouri/Southwest Illinois since November 2007. Statewide, calls to 2-1-1 are expected to exceed 120,000 in 2009, alone, officials said.
This year has seen a significant increase in calls for basic needs – food, utilities, rent and shelter assistance.
“It’s a very simple, free way to get connected to the services you need if you don’t know where to go to get your next meal, or you need a mental health consultation, or you’re senior citizen needs transportation,” Love said.
The project has a searchable database at www.211missouri.org, she said, “But the advantage of calling 2-1-1 is they can do it for you.”
Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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