211 is a United Way funded helpline that serves lower income families within theNorthwest Arkansas area and has been providing information and referrals for almost four years. When I worked as a call specialist I referred to it as the yellow pages for basic needs, as it has information on everything from food pantries to professional development to utility assistance. It’s a fantastic program that responded to just under 4,500 calls in 2014 alone!
I worked for Northwest Arkansas 211 before moving to a position with the finance team at United Way. In the year and a half that I worked for 211, I gained a much greater understanding of many of the struggles and needs of the people who live in this area. Before I began answering calls, I had no idea about the level of homelessness or the number of people that need to utilize programs like local food pantries in order to simply have enough food to get through the week. There is a great need in our area and it was a very rewarding experience for me to be able to point people in the right direction to get the assistance that they need most.
One of the biggest hurdles that I think needs to be overcome when calling the 211 helpline is to understand that 211 is solely an information and referral line. While the call specialists can find an agency that will be able to assist you, they are not the ones who will ultimately be providing that assistance, whether financial or through material goods. To get the most out of your 211 call experience, I recommend having a pen and paper handy so that you can write down the listings that will be given to you over the phone. Please remember that your call specialist is sifting through over 18,000 listings to find the best agency for you, so please be patient!
If you, or someone you know, needs assistance that might fall under a basic need, or if you want to know more about how you can help and volunteer for the agencies that provides these services, please give 211 a call. You can reach them by dialing 2-1-1 on your phone, calling the toll-free number at 866-489-6983, or reaching them through their local number of 479-365-2147.
Belinda Davis, Financial Assistant
United Way of Northwest Arkansas
100 Parkwood Street
Lowell, AR 72745
Direct Line: 479-303-4423
United Way Line: 479-750-1221