Jefferson County residents have a new tool at their disposal which will better help them obtain confidential information and referral services.
On Monday, the county officially became the 55th in Ohio to have access to 211 Information and Referral Service. It provides an easy-to-access way for area residents to be contact in with nonprofit organizations and agencies that are able to fill their specific area of need.
Calls to 211 are 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 150 nonprofit local agencies that can provide help.
Included in that data base are agencies that can help callers with rent assistance, help with clothing, the location of food pantries and meal sites, and many other services.
The United Way of Jefferson County is coordinating the program. Money to get the service started was covered by the United Way of Ohio through a grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Special support has been provided by the Jefferson County commissioners and Chesapeake Energy.
Reports generated by the system will show local officials what services are utilized the most - and, even more important, what categories of services must be expanded to meet growing and changing needs.
The service - which also can be accessed by calling toll-free (866) 542-0394 - is important, according to Sherri McKinney-Frantz, director of 211 and government relations for the United Way of Greater Stark County, who oversees the program that now serves our area. 211 provides help for the area's most vulnerable residents, she said.
Her work, and the hard work of the local United Way, led by Executive Director Beth Rupert-Warren, has helped to get the program off the ground.
It's good to know that area residents are now just one phone call away from being able to find help when they need it.
All those who have pushed this project to completion deserve to be commended for their efforts.