The 411 on 2-1-1

2-1-1. What the heck is that? As the holiday season is approaching, and thoughts of sugar plums, along online shopping, holiday cards, menu planning and present wrapping is upon us, United Way is hoping to bring a different kind of gift to our local community. 2-1-1 is an information and referral number that residents can call for to find local services and resource quickly and efficiently. Kishwaukee United Way is working with funding partners, local agencies and volunteer champions to pull all of the details together to make this resource a reality. Why 2-1-1 now? Well, our staff was involved for a time in the aftermath of the Fairdale tornado in 2015, and saw firsthand the challenges of coordinating services and information after a disaster of that type. 2-1-1 is equipped to handle FEMA related calls and assist in times of disaster. Additionally, a number of local organization have been trying to solve the issue of creating, updating and maintain a directory of information of local services for residents and fellow service providers, but few had the resources, infrastructure or time to create & manage such a system. We knew 2-1-1 could meet this need, as well. What was standing in the way of implementation, you might ask? Funding. Moola. Plan & simple. Kishwaukee United Way then took to the streets (well not the actual streets, but to clubs, commissions, boards, foundations and corporate board rooms) to seek the funding necessary to begin physical implementation of readying physical phone lines to handle 2-1-1 calls as well as seeking the the funding needed for a multi-year pilot of the program. We raised the funds! (Yea us!) Next steps were to answer pressing questions agencies had about the database, fund a group of folks willing to help with implementation, and work to populate the data from local group that will be on the other end of the phone line when someone calls 2-1-1 from DeKalb County. We held a meeting with representatives from PATH (the call center contracted to handle the calls)on 12/7, reached out to our local Youth Service providers (who were crowned 2-1-1 champions for agency outreach and general PR) and putting the word out for group to REGISTER in the 2-1-1 database. So happy wishes to you all this holiday season – hopefully by this time next year, United Way and other partners will have given DeKalb County the gift of easy access to needed services.

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