As we celebrate 2-1-1 Day on February 11, it's a good time to acknowledge our community's support of each other, and to renew our collective willingness to advance the common good.
In Saline County, 686 people turned to 2-1-1 for help last year. In fact, United Way 2-1-1 of Kansas answered a total of 62,640 calls which represented 65,332 needs of various needs and made 83,655 referrals to human services. They called to find heating or utility assistance, or for emergency help, or to find the closest food bank. But they also called for everyday information, to find out where to take their child for developmental screening, or how to locate job training.
United Way 2-1-1 of Kansas was launched in 2006 as the free, confidential, user-friendly number connecting people to essential resources. Nationally, 2-1-1 began in 1997 with the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. Today, 2-1-1 serves more than 283 million Americans-- more than 90% of our population -- in all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. In 2012 (latest data available), almost 16 million people called 2-1-1 in the U.S. about job training, employment, food pantries, help for an aging parent, addiction prevention programs, affordable housing options, support groups and volunteer opportunities. After a disaster, people call 2-1-1 to search out water, food, shelter and disaster aid.
But 2-1-1 does more than connect people with help. It also serves as an unofficial "pulse" on our communities. Calls to 2-1-1 in many communities spiked before the recession was declared in 2009, for example, and a national survey in 2010 confirmed that many middle-class Americans were seeking help for the first time. Many communities analyze 2-1-1 data as one social indicator of local needs and economic stability.
United Ways have been long-standing supporters and the national leader of the 2-1-1 movement in Partnership with AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Services). As the largest private funder of the 2-1-1 network, United Ways continue to strengthen and support 2-1-1 as another way to build stronger communities and create opportunities for all.
So today, on February 11, take one small action to support 2-1-1, the number to call to give help and to get help. Share the number with someone in need. Call the number to volunteer your time in your community.
Together, we're making our community a place where all families and businesses can thrive.