The Local Heroes You’ve Never Heard Of Before

Thank and support 211 call specialists who helped millions of people connect with essential services, especially during the pandemic.
submitted by United Way of the Lakeshore

MUSKEGON, NEWAYGO, & OCEANA COUNTIES, MI – When a crisis hits, having somewhere to turn is invaluable. For millions of people, that place is 211. Last year 211 call specialists fielded more than 20 million calls nationwide, connecting struggling people with essential resources to solve their health care, housing, and food problems. In fact, along the Lakeshore (Muskegon, Newaygo, & Oceana Counties), they served about 21,000 people. Across the country, the average number of calls per day rose as high as 54,000 during the pandemic. And 32 states, including Michigan, promoted 211 as the number to call for COVID-19 help and questions.

Day and night, the call specialists at 211 talk to people who are scared, frustrated, and confused. Throughout the pandemic, they have served as essential workers, answering calls around the clock and helping more people than ever before. Last year the economic fall-out of the pandemic continued to hit people in our community—particularly people of color and those without a college degree—211 was there. Handing out hope from the first hello.

Many people in crisis don’t know where to turn for help. 211 is here to help every person in every community find food, pay for housing and bills, and connect to other essential services. That includes connecting 5,145 people along the Lakeshore to housing resources including shelters, low-income housing, home repair programs, rent/mortgage assistance, landlord/tenant assistance, agencies, and other housing programs in 2021. Join United Way of the Lakeshore and our local 211 office continue to serve thousands of individuals each year. Read about the 7 reasons Michigan’s Lakeshore should use 211 and join us this February 11 as we approach national 211 day.

7 Reasons Michigan’s Lakeshore Should Use 211

211 is here to help every person in our community find food, pay bills, and connect to other essential services. Our 211 is part of a national network, United to help as many people as possible. In fact, 211 is a critical part of the United Way of the Lakeshore’s fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

Here’s why you should use this vital service—and let others know about it, too.

1.) 211 provides connections to many kinds of resources and services, including:
• Crisis and emergency counseling for mental health concerns, domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking
• Disaster assistance
• Food
• Financial assistance, literacy, and coaching
• Health care and insurance assistance
• Stable housing and utilities payment assistance
• Unemployment services
• Veteran services
• Child care and family services

2.) Our 211 call specialists are amazing listeners! 211 does more than “patch people through” to agencies. Instead, every call is answered by a real person, a caring expert who offers comfort, hope, and solutions – from the first hello to the final connection to help.

Just see what one 211 call specialist had to say:
“211 is one of the few places where people can call and there is a real person on the other end – to provide information, patience, empathy, and empowering action steps.” -Bonnie

3.) 211 is simple and convenient to use. The service is free, confidential, and accessible 24/7/365. It’s also available in more than 180 languages.

4.) There’s more than one way to use 211. You can dial 2-1-1 on your phone and speak to a trained 211 specialist. Or you can browse local resources on The service is also available by text, web chat, and email.

5.) 211 tackles problems at the roots. In fact, 211 specialists are trained to identify and address the underlying root causes of a client’s problem – and connect them with a wide range of available resources that meet all the underlying needs, not just the one that prompted the call, text, or email.

6.) 211 helps 20,000 people along the Lakeshore each year, many of them just like you. In 2021, calls to our local 211 averaged 58 calls per day. 211 is available to help anyone, no matter their situation, income level, gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

7.) 211 responds to new needs with innovative services. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the need to change the way many services operated – including community resources that provide food and other essential supplies.

Join Us In Thanking & Supporting Our 211 Team!

211 is a lifeline for all those who have faced devastation since 2014 here in Muskegon County. You can support 211 today to make sure callers get the help they need with real people living in their communities at February 11th is national 211 Day! Join us in sharing 211’s info by joining us in conversation on social media at @UnitedWayLakeshore on ALL platforms. We will be highlighting 211’s impact, their team, and the critical work that needs to be done to ensure that these heroes can keep up the good work.

United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. Our Bold Goal – 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025. For more information, contact United Way of the Lakeshore at 231-332-4000.