There are 49,759 reasons to celebrate National 2-1-1 Day in Central Alabama on Feb. 11th

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United Way
United Way of Central Alabama 2-1-1. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

The United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line has 49,759 reasons this year to celebrate National 2-1-1 Day on February 11th. 

That’s the number of calls the UWCA call center received in Central Alabama and throughout the state in 2021—a 20% increase compared to pre-COVID years.

“We want everyone to know that 2-1-1 is here to help every person, in every community, everyday, and get connected to available resources for finding food, assisting with housing related expenses and connecting to other essential services,” said Brooke Smith, UWCA, Vice President of Community Initiatives. 

What is 2-1-1? Real People Helping Their Neighbors

United Way
United Way of Central Alabama 2-1-1 (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

If you are unfamiliar with 2-1-1, it’s an easy-to-remember telephone number that connects callers to information and resources for critical social service needs in their communities 24/7. Calls at our local 2-1-1 center range from requests for financial assistance to avoid eviction or disconnection of utilities, to everyday needs like unemployment benefits, job training and crisis resources like shelters and food banks.

UWCA covers Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, St. Clair, Walker, Chilton and Cullman counties. In addition, the program also managed the afterhours contract for all 2-1-1 Call Centers statewide in 2021 which consisted of evening, weekend and holiday calls.  

Here are the top five needs in 2021:

  • 20% – Access to Affordable Housing 
  • 19% –  Utility Assistance
  • 6.5% – Income Support/Assistance
  • 5.5% – Disaster Response
  • 4.5% – Food and Meals

And here is a refreshing aspect of 2-1-1: from the first “hello”, someone in crisis connects with a real live person, not an answering machine or virtual program. According to staff who work in our United Way 2-1-1 Call Center, that element is what makes a big difference.

Connecting People in Need After a Disaster

American Red Cross
Photo via American Red Cross’s Facebook

In 2021, Jefferson and Shelby counties experienced three natural disasters: the sudden winter evening tornado that struck Fultondale and Center Point, the long-on-the ground tornado that hit Shelby County in the spring and the historic flooding event that occurred this fall in Jefferson and Shelby counties. 

“Immediately following a disaster, individuals need accurate, precise information on available resources to help them during a crisis, and 2-1-1 offers just that,” says Karla Lawrence, United Way’s Senior Vice President of Community Initiatives. “Because of 2-1-1, we are able to connect individuals to local shelters, identify feeding sites, and provide critical recovery information to the community. “

And United Way’s 2-1-1 is often there for the long run—not just immediately after a disaster. 

Lawrence added, “When the response and recovery efforts end, 2-1-1 may also serve as the point of entry for individuals who need long-term recovery.”

How 2-1-1 Works: It’s Not Only a Phone Call

United Way
(United Way of Central Alabama)

In addition to dialing 2-1-1, you can connect via UWCA’s website to chat online. Or, you can send a confidential text to a call specialist at 888-421-1266.

These options ensure confidentiality and allow alternative options for individuals to receive assistance.  

2-1-1 Connects has an online resource database that can be accessed by the community to find available resources. Organizations can also add available resources to the database by contacting 2-1-1.

Here are the 4 ways you can connect.

  • Call: 2-1-1

Thank you 2-1-1

There is an old bumper sticker that says, “Celebrate Earth Day Everyday.”

Same goes with National 2-1-1 Day. At the United Way of Central Alabama, 2-1-1 helps our neighbors nearly 50,000 times a year. Now, that is something to celebrate.

“Now, more than ever, folks in our community need empathetic listeners, and people that are willing and skilled enough to turn complex problems into real solutions. When you call the 2-1-1 call center, you get just that. You are able to speak with real people from the community who have knowledge, experience, and a heart for service, and who go above and beyond to provide help and encouragement in times of crisis,” says Jana Huddleston, DIrector of the 2-1-1 Call Center. 

Do your part. Share this email, consider volunteering at the 2-1-1 call center or donate.

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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

Articles: 1941