YOUR HOUSE catches fire. A tornado touches down in your neighborhood. The pantry grows empty. Substance abuse is- sues. Rent is due but there’s no money in the bank. These are all reasons someone might call 211. Call specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 211 Program is sponsored by the United Way and is designed to connect people in need with support services available to them.
During a confidential phone call, the call specialist will work to understand the needs of the person calling and match them up with agencies in the database that may help. The database includes over 10,000 health and human service programs. In 2020, the top three reasons for Bedford County citizens to call 211 was for help with housing, utilities, and food. Some of the resources are for a specific population, such as veterans or children.
Through the conversation, the call specialist may uncover other needs and resources that are available that the person calling is unaware of. For example, if the immediate need is for food, there may also be issues with rent, utilities, or transportation. Gathering the information at one time can save time and speed up getting critical needs met. People may not know what services they qualify for or what is available, so the quick phone call can change lives quickly. Race, religion, and immigration status do not impact the support given through 211.
One beauty of the 211 Program is it is a place for nonprofits to share their services with their local community.Those involved in nonprofits can check the online directory at tn211.myresourcedirectory. com to see if their nonprofit is already listed. If not, there is an “Add Agency’’ option to begin the process to be included. Seasonal services, such as Thanksgiving baskets or summer youth programs, are also listed during the appropriate weeks.
The Bedford County 211 Program is financially supported by the Bedford County United Way and facilitated by the United Way of Greater Nashville. As the largest 211 Program in the State of Tennessee, Greater Nashville supports 42 of the counties in Tennessee. Tennessee was one of the first states to cover the 211 Program across all counties in the state approximately 10 years ago.
In addition to nonprofits and people needing help, regular citizens can also call 211 to figure out the best place to volunteer or give donations after a disaster. After a disaster, the 211 call specialists are kept as up-to-date as possible about current needs, where to donate, and what to donate. Some donations, such as old clothes, are problematic because by law old clothes cannot be distributed until they are laundered by the agency distributing them.
Help spread the word about the 211 Program and how it can support the county and its residents. It is a beautiful relationship between giving and receiving. As Maya Angelou said, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”-GN