By Mary Fuller
Feb. 11 was National 211 Day at United Way. On this day, we celebrate all the work United Way does through the 211 Call Center. Our United Way 211 information and referral specialists provide resources to callers in need and manage an online database of local resources spanning from food, shelter, clothing, transportation, utilities, health, mental health, childcare, employment, disaster relief and many more. Our goal is to ensure that everyone knows about it, as you never know when you might need it for yourself, your friend, or your neighbor.
In 2001, 211 was established in the Coastal Empire by United Way to serve the entire region, including Bryan County. Since then, thousands of our residents have been able to call 211 to be connected to critical human services.
In 2020, we received over 1,100 calls and walk-ins from Bryan County residents through our 2-1-1 call center and our Bryan County office. We are contacted by single parents being evicted, seniors needing hearing or vision care, individuals who are struggling with finding shelter and food, long-term residents needing housing repairs, and a whole array of other people who often have complex needs and individual stories.
The people who call are just like you. Each person’s story is unique and there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.
One issue often initiates the call to us, but needs are often complex and require more than one resource to ensure a positive outcome. Our staffers are trained to ask the right questions to accurately identify needs while maintaining privacy and reducing anxiety. They quickly connect with people, strive to understand each person’s perspective, and are resourceful in finding solutions.
Due to our size and geography, Bryan County has very limited human services that are physically located within the county limits.
On the north end of Bryan County, our residents have no access to dental or urgent care services within county lines, as well as limited options for health and eye care.
Although the south end of the county has many more healthcare providers, the majority do not accept Medicaid, forcing low-income families with children to search outside of the county for many of their health-care needs.
Social service providers are even more scarce than healthcare providers in Bryan County.
For example, mental-health and substance- abuse services to the uninsured and underinsured do not exist in our county. We have no employment services in our area helping our residents who have recently been displaced from their jobs with resume, job training and employability skills.
This means that our most vulnerable residents are required to go to Hinesville, Rincon or Savannah to receive services. Bryan County does not have a public transportation system; therefore, those who struggle with reliable transportation often go without needed services, as there is simply no way to get to them.
No matter how we look at it, we depend on the resources in our neighboring counties to meet the needs of our residents simply because many don’t exist here. Bryan County residents could not thrive without these outside resources.
Our 211 department and our United Way county office help navigate the system, responding to each person in need by providing the available regional and local resources.
We work with our funded agencies and other nonprofits to reduce barriers for Bryan County residents by utilizing their services and providing transportation assistance as needed.
When we find gaps in resources, we work with our community partners to find ways to fill those gaps. So, when someone asks what United Way does in the community or seeks resources to meet a need, do not forget this important role we play in helping the community thrive.
211 is a free, confidential service provided by United Way of the Coastal Empire to ensure every person in the community has access to the best resources available.
Our 211 Call Center serves four counties: Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty. 211 is available Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. by calling 2-1-1. It is also available online by visiting www.uwce.org/211.
Mary Fuller is United Way’s Bryan County Area Director. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.