Being a child of the 90’s, we used to call one another and ask, “What’s the 411?” That meant, “What’s going on? What information to do you have?” At the time, “What’s the 411?” was a popular song as well. Today, I will briefly answer the question, “What’s the 211?” February 11, 2019 was National 2-1-1 Day, and 2-1-1 East Texas Region hosted an open house for the community to come and learn more about 2-1-1 and the organizations involved with it.
2-1-1 is a national number that can be dialed from any phone, and the caller can be connected to a information and referral specialist in their area and given aid in finding local resources to meet basic needs. The 2-1-1 database holds thousands of organizations that are established to help those in need across states, counties, and cities. I have personally had to call 2-1-1, in the past for help to find resources in the area I was living in. I was glad to have a simple number I could call to help me. Because of 2-1-1, I no longer had to scour the internet for hours to find possible places that could help me pay a utility bill, rent, food, or diapers for my children. Being in an already frustrating and stressful situation was only amplified by the necessity to do the internet searching myself, or spending hours looking up the names of churches in a phone book. Yes, I had to use a phone book from time to time if my internet service was disconnected. Having 2-1-1 available relieved some of that stress. I didn’t need the internet or to be tech savvy to call 2-1-1 and allow an information and referral specialist look up the resources in my area. I only needed to answer a few demographic questions and convey my need.
While the 2-1-1 database is vast, not every organization that exists is within it. If you call and there is no resource in the database, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and you may have to do a little research and calling local churches or other organizations in your area. However, calling 2-1-1 is the best first step for anyone to take. The staff at 2-1-1 East Texas are working hard to grow the database even more so that it may better serve the East Texas community. To learn more about 2-1-1, visit: https://uwsmithcounty.org/2-1-1-east-texas/
Story by: Angel Davis, United Way of Smith County