Durward Massenburg didn’t know where to turn when his granddaughter, Brianna, needed help and support for daily life.
Brianna, who turns seven this month, lives with her extended family and has 12 life-altering illnesses that require special care and keep her from walking on her own. With her medical care in expert hands, her family had to find ways to make their home wheelchair-accessible and equipped for her needs on a budget.
“Without 2-1-1, we would have been on the computer for days and days, trying to do our own research to find places to get help,” said Massenburg. With 2-1-1, the Massenburgs were able to quickly find a handicapped-accessible van.
United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg is home to an accredited Information and Referral Center that helped launch the 2-1-1 network five years ago. United Way’s center is one of five across the state that collects and maintains information on thousands of organizations and can refer callers to organizations that can best assist them.
“2-1-1 is an easy-to-remember phone number that can help busy parents connect with programs and services in our region,” said Trisha Steiniger, 2-1-1 director at United Way.
United Way has offered information and referral services to the Richmond region since the seventies. Its Information and Referral Center answers more than 20,000 calls each year.
The 2-1-1 database contains a wealth of information that can help parents. Some of the most common topics that parents call to ask about include: after-school programs; mentoring programs; tutoring; physicians; counseling; autism resources; child care resources; and back-to-school information, including where to get the required vaccinations.
“Autism information can be especially hard to find in the community,” Steiniger said. “If you are seeing developmental delays in your young child, you can call 2-1-1 to find resources for early intervention. We can also connect you with support groups, professionals that treat autism, and camps that serve children with autism.”
Calls to 2-1-1 are answered by trained community resource specialists, who ask questions and gather as much information as needed to steer callers in the right direction. All calls are kept confidential.
“If I can help just one person connect with services they don’t know about, then I’ve done my job,” said Monica Bailey, a 2-1-1 community resource specialist. “It only takes one phone call to get moving in the right direction.”