John Walsh is chief operating officer of St. Joseph Hospital and United Way of Allen Countys 211 Services cabinet chair. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.
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Published: March 7, 2013 3:00 a.m.
211 helping fill needs of the area’s neediest
211 is a national dialing code for free, confidential 24-hour access to more than 2,100 local health and human services, such as housing, shelter, food, legal aid, clothing, counseling, utility assistance, health care and transportation.211 specialists are trained to help callers figure out what they need and where to get help.Northeast Indiana’s 211 Services, supported by Lutheran Health Network and operated by United Way of Allen County, provide assistance to 13 counties and receive thousands of calls each year.This important resource helps people with issues they are facing now and those they may face in the future.For example, a person in need of food can dial 211 and talk to a specialist who can connect them to one of our local food pantries or soup kitchens.But that doesn’t keep food on the table month in and month out, so 211 helps put the individual on the path to do so. 211 call specialists are trained to look at which long-term services will help someone struggling to meet their basic needs. Not only will they get the caller connected with a local food pantry or soup kitchen, but they’ll also screen the individual to determine whether the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, is an appropriate option for their long-term needs. The immediate need and long-term need for food is not going to go away just from this single phone call and screening though, so 211 takes another step to address ongoing community issues.United Way’s 211 works with other partners to address concerns that affect all of us in northeast Indiana.We all know food is probably not the only issue facing someone who can’t meet their basic needs. Oftentimes income and shelter, among many other issues, are concerns as well. 211 works with other non-profits to address the wide range of challenges many people, and ultimately our community, face. The specialists perform follow-up calls with clients, share information with agencies and help coordinate services in times of disaster, such as the storms last June that left thousands of residents without power. 211 call specialists are on the front lines of our community every day.They are changing individuals’ lives, families’ needs and the community’s future. Northeast Indiana 211 Services is also there when residents want to help others. By dialing 211, you can find out where you can volunteer or donate much-needed food and personal care items. In addition, monetary donations are always needed and welcomed. Donations can be made to United Way of Allen County by calling 260-422-4776, online at www.UnitedWayAllenCounty.org or to the agency of your choice; simply call 211 for the correct contact information. Finally, 211 services are free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you need help, dial 211 and get connected with a call specialist today.