Residents of Jefferson County who find themselves in need of help soon will have access to a service that will make the sometimes-daunting process of locating the proper agency much easier.
It's a 211 Information and Referral service, and, once activated in the early part of 2013, it will provide an easy-to-access way for area residents to be put into contact with nonprofit organizations and agencies that can fill their specific need in their specific area.
The creation of the system is being facilitated locally by the United Way of Jefferson County. The start-up cost of approximately $22,000 is being covered by the United Way of Ohio through a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. After the first year, the local United Way will be responsible for covering the yearly operating cost of $20,000 a year, which the agency plans to obtain through grants and donations that are a part of the annual campaign.
Calls to 211 will be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. There's no charge for the call, which will be serviced through a Canton call center operated by the United Way of Greater Stark County. Trained specialists will have access to a data base that will contain information about the more than 100 nonprofit local agencies that can provide help.
It's an important service, and one that is already in operation in 54 of Ohio's 88 counties. Not surprisingly, the majority of those counties lie in the state's Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor.
The 211 program is specifically designed to help people in need, by offering a one-stop place to find services suited to those needs. The service is needed - according to Sherri McKinney-Frantz, director of 211 and Government Relations for the United Way of Greater Stark County, 3,300 Ohioans called 211 every day last year. They were looking for help in finding health and human services, with many of the requests centering on food, shelter, clothing, rent and financial assistance.
We're glad to know that 211 soon will be up and running in Jefferson County, and thank everyone who is helping to make the service a reality.