Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Lifeline

by Dona Ponepinto, President & CEO

As the seasons change, the colder weather starts to set in. The recent nights with lows in the 20s make a person want to stay under a blanket and turn up the heat. Imagine how you would feel if your home didn't have heat. Or even worse, if you didn't have a home. Would you know where to turn?

There is a place you can call, South Sound 2-1-1. Help starts here. By simply dialing 2-1-1, just like you would 9-1-1, you can get connected to a real person. Someone who not only knows about the resources available in Pierce County to help you get heat or find a warm place to sleep but someone who also knows how desperate you might feel.

With empathy and knowledge, South Sound 2-1-1 provides a lifeline. In 2013, it was a lifeline for over 83,000 people. Specialists helped people find a ride to their doctor’s appointment. They helped them find an agency that could provide services for their developmentally delayed child. They were there simply to listen.

When a resource was unavailable, South Sound 2-1-1 looked for other areas where a caller could get help. In some cases, connecting them to food gave the caller the funds they needed to pay the electric bill or fill the gas tank.

And at South Sound 2-1-1, we don’t just look for a quick fix. We want to help people get on their feet but we also want them to stay on their feet. By checking the caller’s eligibility for the Basic Food program or Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), we can help them find stability.

For those who have called, South Sound 2-1-1 provided answers they couldn't find on their own. We want South Sound 2-1-1 to be available for all those in need and for a long time to come. We can’t do it alone. Please answer the call to support 2-1-1 by donating today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Love Working at South Sound 2-1-1

by Sarah Teague, South Sound 2-1-1 Resource Specialist

I can honestly say that I love my job. I’m a call and resource specialist at South Sound 2-1-1, which means I answer the phone when someone calls needing help, and works with the community to list the resources that are there to help. I like taking calls here because it connects me with my community in a way that I had never connected before.

  •      I have helped callers stay in housing, or found housing because they called 2-1-1.
  •      I have helped callers access a doctor, or insurance or dental care because they called 2-1-1.
To me, that’s amazing. And I am lucky, because not only do I have the ability to search our resources to find what can help a caller, I also to get to add the information about new programs, or make changes to the programs we have.

I have learned so much about what our community needs and the barriers we face. And how there are so many caring and committed groups working to help.

I collect information about community organizations and programs. Pester them with questions to help our callers be prepared (Oh, you provide this service too, fantastic! Now, should someone call to set up an appointment or just walk-in? What documentation should they bring?) And I am very grateful to those who work with me to keep the information as accurate as possible.

After I receive the information and, like any Librarian-at-Heart, I have to categorize it in a way that other people can find that information. Using the AIRS Taxonomy (the Dewey Decimal system of social services) every program is categorized so the Information & Referral Specialists can find it quickly.

Within seconds, we can pull up a list of food pantries across the county. Within minutes we can find information on resources available to help with multiple needs, or if there are no resources, we can try to troubleshoot alternatives and work-arounds.

And I am lucky to work with other people who are caring, and committed to our community. I am constantly moved by how much they give of themselves.

I think that’s why I have stuck around for eight years. I have really enjoyed watching the call center grow and seeing how we can really be the “First Call for Help.” I am looking forward to see how we can change and grow to serve our community better.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Giving Jamie’s Family a Second Chance

by Kathryn McCarthy, Director of Donor Relations

Last December was a really scary time for Jamie, her husband and their two-year old daughter. In August, her husband had been laid off and by the time December came, they were really behind financially, just as their electricity bill was growing. Unable to pay their bills, they finally lost power in December. Losing power meant more than just heat, it meant no way to cook, no refrigerator and after 4:30 p.m. in winter no light.

If you ask Jamie about that time, she will tell you “We bundled up, lit candles and we tried to be troopers, but it was scary. We really did not know what we were going to do.”  The change and the stress had an immediate effect on their two-year old. Normally happy and easy going, her temperament changed over those long days and nights.

The family knew they needed to do something, but they really did not know where to turn. Finally, Jamie came across a flyer for South Sound 2-1-1.  At first, she was hesitant to call. She wasn't looking for a handout, but her family was in trouble.  

“We’re proud people; I was embarrassed to ask for help. And I didn't really think it could be that easy. That I could really dial three numbers and someone would help me.  But I called and a real person answered. She listened to my problem and she found my family help.”  Jamie was guided to Metropolitan Development Council (MDC) and within a day her power was restored.

Today, Jamie and her family are getting back on their feet. Jamie said, “I’m so grateful to 2-1-1. We’re getting our finances back on track and that would not have been possible without 2-1-1. I tell everyone about 2-1-1, it changed my life. They gave my family a second chance.”

Every day hundreds of people in our community call South Sound 2-1-1 distressed, just like Jamie. Our call specialists answer the phone with compassion and professionalism.  It’s so much more than a data base. Call specialists can problem solve and help callers find solutions they might not be aware existed, and they might be the only caring and compassionate voice someone hears.

If you or someone you know needs help, tell them to call 2-1-1. It might be the second chance they need.