New 211 Information, Referral service launched

STEUBENVILLE – The new 211 Information and Referral service in Jefferson County was officially launched Monday afternoon with a press conference and test call to the 211 Center in Canton.

“Hi, my name is Beth and I need some assistance,” Beth Rupert-Warren of the United Way of Jefferson County told the operator who answered the test phone call.

“What kind of assistance do you need?,” the operator responded.

“I need some food. I heard about this program in the community,” replied Rupert-Warren.

“I just need your ZIP code and your age, Beth,” the operator continued.

The operator immediately listed three locations in Steubenville which would be able to provide food assistance and asked Rupert-Warren if there was anything else she needed.

“All you have to do is call 211 to get assistance in finding help,” Rupert-Warren stated to a room full of local service service agencies and United Way officials after she completed the phone call.

After months of collecting information on approximately 150 social agencies, building a data base of those agencies and negotiating the technical process of creating a 211 Information and Referral system that is answered in Stark County, local officials launched the free service at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce conference room.

“We are pleased with the work accomplished so far. We have the 211 center in Canton that was already serving Stark and Carroll counties and now have added Jefferson County. This brings approximately 70,000 more people into our system. I want to thank former United Way of Jefferson County President Ross Gallabrese and the board members who worked to make this happen,” said Nick Roman of the United Way of Ohio.

“I also want to thank the Jefferson County commissioners for their financial support as well as Chesapeake Energy. This has not been an easy job but everyone here has made it a success,” added Roman.

According to Sherri McKinney-Frantz, United Way of Stark County director of 211 and government relations, the Canton based 211 call center fielded “about 40,000 calls last year.”

“I am so impressed with your community. And, I think you will find your greatest need will be food. It was always rent assistance before but now its food followed by help with the rent. And yes, we ask every caller for their ZIP code and age so we can identify what agencies can help them with their needs. I am excited you are joining our 211 program and hope you will tell others about the 211 Information and Referral service,” noted McKinney-Frantz.

“And, please remember that if you can’t call 211 you can call toll-free (866) 542-0394. The staff answering the phone at the 211 center won’t know the difference, and the toll-free number takes you to the same call center,” explained McKinney-Frantz.

“Who says good things don’t happen on Mondays,” proclaimed Anthony Mougianis, 2014 United Way campaign chairman, as he applauded the work to make the 211 service a reality.

“The 211 system will connect individuals, families and professionals to the information required to meet the needs of the residents of Jefferson County. And, it will provide our resource agencies a list of services that people are looking for in our communities,” said Rupert-Warren.

“This has been a true learning experience. And I believe the 211 program will help unify our county. And starting Tuesday I will be distributing 10,000 fliers listing the 211 information. I will definitely be wearing my tennis shoes for that job,” laughed Rupert-Warren.