Tuesday, February 11, 2014

South Sound 2-1-1 Adds New Services for Those In Need

February 11th is National 2-1-1 Day, Celebrating the Work of 2-1-1 Centers Nationwide

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate
In 2013, United Way of Pierce County ‘s South Sound 2-1-1 call center added more services, making it an even more critical resource for people who don’t know where to turn. In addition to connecting callers to resources such as rental and utility assistance, food and transportation, the call center added a health plan specialist, a military specialist and the ability to sign people up for the Basic Food program.
In 2013, South Sound 2-1-1 reached 82,000 people. More than 50,000 callers were connected to resources through the call center while an additional 32,000 people accessed services online.

South Sound 2-1-1 specialists helped callers navigate the changing scene of health care and understand what new legislation meant for their health coverage. They also helped military personnel and veterans access resources both on and off base as well as helping 120 people complete Basic Food program applications.
Over the course of the year, South Sound 2-1-1 also helped:

·         Keep People Housed. South Sound 2-1-1 helped 8,228 people get connected to rental assistance and housing stability programs and another 5,919 to shelter or affordable housing options.

·         Keep Warm in Winter. South Sound 2-1-1 referred 10,325 people to utility assistance.

·         Access Health Care. South Sound 2-1-1 assisted 2,043 people with dental care, vision care and general health care resources.

·         Keep People Fed. South Sound 2-1-1 helped more than 2,000 people find local feeding programs.
The call center also staffs a transportation specialist, who helped 3,414 people get to jobs, medical appointments, the grocery store or food bank and other essential trips. Additionally, a partnership with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and mytaxes.com helps low-income families get tax assistance. In 2013, South Sound 2-1-1 helped over 400 families get the tax credits they were eligible for.

The call center serves not only Pierce County but also takes calls from Lewis and Thurston counties as well. The South Sound center is one of the most cost-effective call centers in the state, using volunteer and advocacy support from United Way of Pierce County to staff the call center and obtain state funding.

Monday, February 10, 2014

United Way Takes Olympia

by Lindsey Burks, Marketing Intern

Throughout the community United Way is well-known in workplaces for our campaigns, and in agencies for our support. The facet of our work that is less visible to the community is our advocacy; however lobbying at the Capital for support for children and families in Pierce County is one of the most critical elements of our mission. Although advocacy is a constant effort, our lobbying culminates on one day – our annual Day on the Hill.
Day on the Hill connects a team of United Way staff, volunteers and community members with legislators in Olympia to discuss the issues on our advocacy agenda. Led by United Way’s Public Policy Committee, the team will focus on issues including continued investments in early learning programs and the 2-1-1 Call Center, as well as funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The agenda also includes a key initiative around capital improvements to a Tacoma child care facility and a children’s outdoor art park.

The proposal for the urban children’s park seems simple enough. An undeveloped plot of land behind the Children’s Museum off Pacific Avenue is an ideal location for an outdoor park. However, the historic Prairie Line railroad track runs through this lot, an inactive track since 1943. This land has become somewhat of an eye sore for downtown goers. United Way envisions this unused land becoming a safe outdoor learning environment for Pierce County’s youth.
In 2012, State Representative Jake Fey and United Way initiated a conversation with the City of Tacoma, Metro Parks, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, and Tacoma Art Museum to look at state funds that could be used to purchase the property. The proposed park would link the daycare playground behind the United Way building to the Tacoma Art Museum.
Today, children need more opportunities to learn outdoors. Too often our kids are inside bogged down with iPads and video games. The Children’s Art Park creates a safe environment for adolescents to learn and explore with the elements outside while beautifying a downtown landmark that has been inactive for much too long. With the help of State Representatives this little plot of land, rich with history, can once again become an important jewel in our community.