Need help, but don't know exactly where to turn?

Need help, but don't know exactly where to turn?

The United Way of Union County recently launched 211, an information and referral hotline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Maybe you're elderly and wonder if someone can help you shovel the drive.

Or recently unemployed and don't know where to apply for assistance.

Or the parent of an autistic child looking for daycare.

211 might be able to point you in the direction of help.

In collaboration with a number of funding partners, United Way is contracting with HelpLine of Delaware and Morrow County to staff the hotline, maintain a database of available services and update a website.

The service promises to serve as the community's first call for assistance.

"It's another way for people to get connected for those things that happen in the middle of the night or the middle of the weekend when most offices are closed," said Susan Hanson, who has been Help-Line's executive director for the last 17 years.

"Their problem might be able to wait until the next day," she said, "but at the very least, there's someone on the other end of the line to talk them through their problem, make a plan, or get them the resources they need right away."

Shari Marsh, executive director of the United Way, said she expects a wide range of county residents to rely on 211.

"There are a variety of reasons why people may be seeking help," Marsh said.

"I can imagine people calling 211 to seek help with the most basic of needs, such as housing, food, utility assistance," she said.

"I can also see someone who is caring for an elderly parent or grandparent who may need to call to see what type of senior citizen assistance programs are available as well. This resource can be used to help people with a wide variety of needs."

211 was launched in Union County Jan. 1.

In addition to simply letting people know which agencies provide services, the call center staff can also tell callers whether they are eligible for additional services, and what type of documents they need to provide when they go to get help.

"It's not just giving out a phone number," Hanson said.

"It's taking the time to talk with someone about their situation, lending an ear and a compassionate voice," she said.

"And when you're able to make a link to a resource that's going to successfully meet a person's need, you're empowering someone to get their life back on track. It's very gratifying."

The annual call volume to 211 call centers typically equates to use by 6 to 10 percent of the population, depending on need and the promotion of the service.

As such, the United Way expects to field as many as 5,000 calls from Union County this year.

Marsh said the collaboration with neighboring Morrow County will not only save resources but also strengthen the program.

"One of the nice things about being with a multi-county service such as HelpLine is that they have information about resources in a greater geographic area that may provide services not available in Union County," Marsh said.

More information is available from the United Way of Union County at 937-644-8381 or online at