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West Virginia marking referral service success with 211 Day today

Delaney Laughery, United Way information and referral specialist and WV211 state director, answers a phone. United Ways are celebrating 211 Day, today, Feb. 11, or 2-11. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia 211 is celebrating 211 Day today, Feb. 11 or 2-11.

The service provided by United Way agencies has answered more than 25,000 calls over the last year, connecting people to the services and benefits they need.

“Our most impactful moments are when we get to be the hope that someone needs. Sometimes that person needs more than an internet search, they need a real live voice on the other end of the line. They need a conversation. Help starts for hundreds of people every day when they simply dial 2-1-1,” said Delaney Laughery, a referral specialist for the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley and the WV211 state director.

The 211 service is used by millions of people across North America. Every day, clients contact 211 to access free and confidential crisis and emergency counseling including disaster assistance, food, health care and insurance assistance, housing and utility payment assistance, employment services, veterans services, child care and family services, among others.

“We are so proud of the work that 211 is doing across the Mid-Ohio Valley, both in our West Virginia and Ohio footprint,” said Stacy DeCicco, executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley in Parkersburg. “It is the conduit that bridges needs to resources and makes life-changing moments for our neighbors.”

Olivia Dauley, a program assistant at the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, and Delaney Laughery, United Way information and referral specialist and WV211 state director, at an event for 211. West Virginia 211 is celebrating 211 today, Feb. 11, or 2-11. (Photo Provided)

Providing up-to-date and critical information to those in need every day is a tremendous undertaking and a huge accomplishment, she said.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the growth and continued success of this program and we are humbled to be a part of something that makes such a monumental difference for so many,” DeCicco said. “WV211, in particular, has experienced such growth in the last 18 months and we are so excited about what is on the horizon. It is a very exciting day for us and we are thrilled to be a part of it all.”

Trained call specialists who answer the phones at 211 are remarkable, Margaret O’Neal, president of the Board of Directors, said.

“Every day, they connect thousands of callers to resources and services they need,” O’Neal said. “Often, this means digging into an individual’s story, and helping get to the root of the problems they are facing.”

West Virginia 211 today also is launching a partnership with Aunt Bertha to add self-service search functionality to the program.

The West Virginia 211 display at the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley. United Ways in West Virginia are celebrating 211 Day today, Feb. 11, 2-11. (Photo Provided)

The new feature allows users to visit wv211.org and search from more than 12,000 available resources on their own. The search results allow the user to filter by location, hours, needs and is mobile responsive and easy to use.

“One persistent local barrier to improving access to resources is simply knowing where to turn when you’re in need,” Laughery said. “Often times, individuals would rather search for the information on their own instead of speaking to our representatives. This new state of the art search feature will allow them to do just that.”

With COVID-19 remaining a challenge, leaders have decided to virtually celebrate the day through social media and advocacy. No local in-person events are being scheduled to keep everyone safe.

For more information about West Virginia 211 or to donate to keep the service available, go to wv211.org.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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