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Local

2-1-1 service going strong

Free social services referral line open all day, every day

Looking for a local food pantry? Not sure where to get your child a flu shot? Would you like some help signing up for health insurance? Having trouble paying your utilities?

There’s a number you can call to get information on all of the above – and more. It serves 90 percent of America’s population, connecting some 16 million people a year to critical resources, information and services.

The 2-1-1 service launched in Whiteside County in October.

Funded locally by United Way of Whiteside County, it provides callers with all kinds of information on all kinds of local social services. The call is free of charge, and information is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

More than 300 people turned to the local 2-1-1 program in the past 3 months, Russell Siefken, executive director of United Way of Whiteside County, said in a news release. Most were looking for help with basic needs such as utility assistance, housing, and food.

“Without 2-1-1, callers can make an average of eight phone calls to different numbers before finding the services they need,” Siefken said in the release.

How it works: When you dial 2-1-1, the call is routed to the local center at Providing Access to Help in Bloomington, where it’s answered by one of 18 volunteer information and referral specialists.

They ascertain your need, search the database, and explain how to access those services.

A worker who has been laid off or whose hours have been cut, for instance, might be provided information on unemployment benefits, job search options, food stamps, food pantries, mortgage or rent help, utility assistance, counseling, or other available resources.

The service also has helped Whiteside County residents to find shelter when needed this winter, the release said.

To learn more

Tuesday is National 2-1-1 Day. Go to www.unitedwayillinois.org/211/211.php to learn more about the service.

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