Who you gonna call?

Mar. 13, 2013 @ 05:05 AM

“I have four children and I need food for them,” are the words spoken of a destitute mother who has lost hope. Where can she find help? Who can she call? 

 Tuesday morning in front of a crowd of about 100 leaders from the county and nonprofit groups, Dial 2-1-1 — Help When You Need It The Most — officially began. The statewide call system offers answers to questions like the mother’s call and hundreds of others.

“This is a red letter day in Rutherford County,” Faye Hassell, executive director of United Way said in rolling out the new non-emergency help line.

Everybody in Rutherford County — and the state —  has access to 2-1-1 either by  dial-up, online database or email, Hassell said.

By dialing 2-1-1, any caller can receive information about multiple issues such as finding food for children, housing, utility services, shelter from abuse, schools, and places to become volunteers. 

The new system is described as the non-emergency call for help, however, if a person dials 2-1-1 and actually needs emergency help the call is immediately transferred to 9-1-1.  

The service is similar to “First Call for Help” that had to be discontinued due to funding in the county a few years ago.

Hassell said it is often difficult to call for help, even when there is a need for food or shelter, because “people are proud.” By dialing 2-1-1 a person on the telephone will provide confidential information on whatever topic. 

Calls are available in English or Spanish. 

“This is a fantastic service,” Hassell said. “It connects people when they need it the most. There is someone 24/7 to take calls. But it is only as good as the database.”

She encouraged every nonprofit representative, leader and others attending to make sure the respective data information is included in the system. 

“This is the start of a journey,” said Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce director Clark Pool. “If you have hope, you have the energy to get through it, but if you lose hope, you’re done,” he said. Dial 2-1-1 offers support, solutions and help, he said. “This is about as much hope as we’ve had in a long time. This is a vehicle for information. This is not just three numbers in a statewide system,” he said.

There are two call centers for 2-1-1, one in Durham and the other in Asheville. Rutherford County has become partners with the Asheville call center.

By dialing 2-1-1, the caller can be connected to over 18,000 resources in North Carolina.

Marketing materials are available to promote the new non-emergency help line. To help distribute the materials to receive additional information, call 286-3929.