211 Network Connects People with Needed Resources at Life’s Critical Moments

Headshot of Heather Pierce.

By Heather Pierce, 211 Coordinator for United Way of the Plains, Special to the Wichita Eagle

The following OpEd appeared in the Wichita Eagle on National 211 Day, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. 

It’s not easy to think clearly when you’re suddenly faced with life’s uncertainties or experiencing a crisis. The shock of losing a job or unexpectedly facing homelessness can cloud decision making and even sink people into despair. To support our most vulnerable citizens in their time of need, United Way of the Plains operates a 211 call center around the clock providing free, confidential service that connects people to a wide range of resources. We do more than patch people through to helpful agencies. We actively listen and dig deep to understand how we can connect with the right resources.

Humanizing that experience with kindness and empathy was one of our priorities when we established this service in 2006. While some individuals can successfully find the resources they need when in crisis mode, the vast majority of people need a helping hand to navigate the available options. And most of them benefit from a human connection with someone who has been trained to actively listen and empathize with their sudden change in circumstances. We do the critical work of helping people connect to the area agencies that can assist them in their time of need and our call specialists are skilled at building connection and rapport with those who need help.

Kansans have found themselves in need of human services resources more than two million times since United Way 211 started this service 16 years ago. Over the years, the connection options have been expanded from a phone call to other digital platforms, like texting, messaging and website listings.
It’s gratifying to me as well as the entire team of 211 call specialists to help our fellow Kansans find solutions and make them aware of the resources offered by area agencies. We hear the relief in a young mother’s voice when we connect her with a food bank that can help feed her children. We experience the appreciation from someone who has suffered a job loss and needs to upgrade their skills. And we hear the cautious hope from someone we’ve connected to an emergency shelter so they can finally escape an abusive situation.

Serving our neighbors in 75 counties throughout the state of Kansas with a 24/7 connection to important resources is one way United Way of the Plains helps them in their time of greatest need. Our understanding of the available social services makes it easier and faster for them to find a solution and to return to normal or even improved circumstances. It’s part of our mission to help everyone achieve their full human potential.

Friday, February 11 (2/11) is the day that the national 211 network is acknowledged and celebrated across the United States. We hope you’ll join us in increasing the visibility of this service so that more people benefit from using it. Please encourage them to dial 2-1-1, text their ZIP code to 898-211 or check our website at unitedwayplains.org/211 to find a local expert to assist them. We look forward to taking them from hello to help.

Heather Pierce helped establish the 211 Network Service in 2006. She manages the call specialist team and the network database for United Way of the Plains.

United Way of the Plains is a nonprofit and for-impact organization that focuses on health, education, financial stability and basic needs – the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Our mission is to improve lives by harnessing the caring power of our community to advance the common good in south central Kansas. Follow us on these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.


Published On: February 11, 2022Tags: ,


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