Connecting Those in Need with Those Who Can Help

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By Tammy Moore Teague

It’s three numbers, 2-1-1, but for some it’s a life saver, literally. This system is set up to provide callers with a directory of social programs. Arkansas, however, is not a state that mandates telephone service providers to translate three digit dialing to the 2-1-1 system.

The United Way of Fort Smith is working to change that and hopes to join the Northwest Arkansas United Way in implementing 2-1-1. Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington Counties are already offering the service.

Dialing the three digit combination will provide the caller with information such as location of food banks, physical and mental health resources, financial assistance and support for children and families.

The bottom line is the United Way needs contributions to do this work. “If everyone in the community gave a dollar think of how much more we could do,” Fort Smith United Way President, Eddie Herndon said. Also, state allocated funds are needed. In 2009 the funding that kept the directory accessible to Arkansans was cut. There is currently a push for federal funding, which would ensure the 2-1-1 system would be accessible nationwide.

Nathan Cook, the former executive director of the Arkansas 211 system, said “The state will be in a lot of trouble if disaster comes. I don’t think they really realize the value of the system.”

If you are interested in seeing the program in our area you are encouraged to contact your telephone see provider as well as your state representative. For more information, you can contact the United Way of Fort Smith.

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