At United Way of Southern West Virginia, we make connections among donors, volunteers, advocates and partners to improve the lives of everyone in our service area. We accomplish this by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: health, education and financial stability. The advantage of the United Way is that we support our community partners by conserving manpower, encouraging charitable giving, lowering fundraising costs and fostering cooperation among agencies.
Our 211 Information and Referral Hotline is a collaborative project among all West Virginia United Ways. One core objective of United Way is to recognize evolving community needs and work to address those needs. Upon identifying an urgent need for a database to serve each particular region of the state with information regarding social services, United Way addressed that need with the 211 information line.
211 is a telephone number that links callers to health and human services through trained specialists. It is an easy, reliable, and trusted source for answers and the hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 211 calls are free and confidential, and answers are specific to the caller’s geographic location. Calls can be made from any mobile or landline phone, and after being prompted to enter their ZIP code, callers will be connected to a local information and referral specialist.
Marsha Shonk is the southern West Virginia information and referral specialist for 211. There are hundreds of services for our neighbors in need that include food pantries, utility assistance, housing information, physical and mental health options, recovery programs, senior services, and many others. Marsha maintains a current database of the available services and can refer callers to the appropriate agency or program in their area.
Marsha’s value to United Way goes above and beyond maintaining and disseminating information. Marsha makes connections. The effects of the global pandemic that have revealed themselves in increased unemployment, overdoses, food insecurity and other issues have shown a 600 percent increase in calls to 211 for assistance. Whether it is facilitating food deliveries to people who don’t have transportation or providing a listening ear to an individual experiencing unexpected joblessness, our referral specialist connects people with the help they need.
Recently, a senior caller to 211 relayed that they were moving from transitional housing to their own home while waiting for benefits to be approved. She had numerous needs from requiring a replacement Social Security card, lacking transportation to doctor’s visits, and owning only one pair of poorly fitting shoes. Not only did she offer information on housing and utilities, Marsha also facilitated replacement of the Social Security card, gave her the appropriate information regarding free transportation for Medicaid patients and provided new shoes from the United Way Shoe Pantry.
Though callers to 211 may need assistance for a specific requirement, our information specialist listens to see if other issues are present and pairs each caller with the support to address their needs. Our Information and Referral Hotline is a vital resource in these uncertain, unprecedented times. This direct service is an example of living, giving, and leading UNITED.
How to give
Contributions to United Way can be made by mailing a check directly to United Way of Southern West Virginia, PO Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801, giving securely at unitedwayswv.org or calling directly to 304-253-2111.