No one wants to look back on March 2020, but let’s revisit one positive moment where community partners stepped up and stepped in for United Way. It’s no surprise that United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA) 2-1-1 Information and Referral Line received a record number of calls during the beginning of the pandemic. As the world became scarier, community members became more vulnerable. They called 2-1-1 looking for help related to housing, food, income support, healthcare and more.
UWCA 2-1-1 call specialists fielded these inquiries and worked tirelessly to support worried, desperate and stressed individuals from all walks of life. Recognizing a need to not only help these callers but also support the 2-1-1 staff (which was also stressed), Workshops Empowerment Inc. lent its employees for nearly two months to the 2-1-1 Call Center.
As a UWCA partner agency, Workshops helps people with disabilities and other employment barriers join the workforce. But when Workshops had to send its staff home during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, management saw an opportunity to continue supporting vulnerable community members, even if it didn’t fuel their immediate mission.
“I loved it because it was a great way to feel like we were we were helping out in the community and learning more about what resources were out there,” said Workshops Executive Director Susan Crow. “It felt like something we could do at a time when I think most of us in the world, from either a work or a personal standpoint, felt our options were very limited about what we could do.”
This experience not only illustrated to Susan and the Workshops staff the vast resources that are available here, but also heightened their awareness of certain resources that not everyone has easy access to. Susan said listening to what these callers were looking for encouraged her to keep fighting for everyone’s right to health, education and financial stability.
Answering 2-1-1 calls also showed Susan and her staff that just being kind can go a long way.
“A lot of people want a dignified phone call with someone who can empathize with them and if nothing else, give them moral support and let them know you’ve got this,” said Susan. “Just to be a friendly, listening ear who can offer some support was as meaningful as the resources themselves…making that human connection at a time when the callers were, by and large, quite desperate.”
The support Workshops showed to the community exemplifies everything UWCA’s mission seeks to achieve. There is power in numbers, and we can accomplish so much more when we come together as a whole.
“Of course, we want to support United Way in every way we can, because it’s so generous with us,” said Susan. “It’s the heartbeat of our community.”
To learn more about Workshops Empowerment Inc. and the incredible work the organization does for Jefferson County, visit the website.
Learn more about the 2-1-1 Call Center at www.uwca.org/211. And if you need immediate assistance, you can reach a call specialist by calling either 2-1-1 or 1-888-421-1266 or by texting 1-888-421-1266.