Every day in Austin, we’re working to ensure each child has access to high-quality education, every family has the tools they need to be financially stable, and health and human services are readily available for all.
At UWATX, we are grateful for our employees who are dedicated to improving the lives of people in Greater Austin. United Way’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center is one of the busiest departments that does this every day; just last year, the 2-1-1 Navigation Center answered more than 300,000 calls from residents in need!
This compassionate team of specialists connects callers to more than 30,000 nonprofit and government resources within the ten counties we serve. Four phenomenal women: Cynthia Houlihan, Laura Juarez, Melissa Korpi and Jessica Venson (all photographed above), have worked in the UWATX 2-1-1 Navigation Center for more than five years!
We chatted with these specialists on their specific roles, the transformations they have seen in the call center over the past five years and what they enjoy most about their jobs:
Q: What is your role?
Cynthia: 2-1-1 Community Information Coordinator
Laura: Bilingual Navigation Specialist
Melissa: Lead Healthcare Navigation Specialist
Jessica: Director of Client Services
Q: How have you seen the Navigation Center change over time since you’ve been here?
Cynthia: At the time I started working for 2-1-1 United Way, we were in the first phase of expanding the 2-1-1 call center through the addition of MAP screening services for Central Health. Since that time, we have increased the scope of services the Navigation Center provides to the community through expansion of the Central Health platform and the addition of Bluebonnet Trails Community Services and El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission. The Navigation Center has increased our community involvement by partnering with community programs and initiatives such as IT’S TIME TEXAS, Enroll ATX, March of Dimes Go Before You Show and Literacy Coalition of Central Texas SPARK!
Melissa: With our fairly new partnerships with El Buen Samaritano and Bluebonnet Trails, it has grown so much! When I started here, we were all able to fit in the actual call center, but we’ve gradually taken over the bottom floor at UWATX. Also, when I started here, we had big red walls around each cubicle, and now with the shorter walls, it’s much more of an open floor plan.
Q: What has been your most rewarding moment working in the Navigation Center?
Cynthia: I am fortunate to have enjoyed many rewarding moments. One in particular that comes to mind is the time I was finishing up a call with a woman who was facing a number of challenges due to the loss of her job. I was thanking her for calling 2-1-1 and she said, “Thank you for being here. When I called I didn’t have any hope and now I do.” Wow!
Laura: Providing interdepartmental support to make a better community.
Melissa: My most rewarding moment is when I was promoted to Operations Coordinator of the Navigation Center. I enjoyed overseeing all the day-to-day logistics, such as scheduling, time requests and reports, for the entire call center.
Q: What is the most common thing people call to ask you about?
Cynthia: Basic needs assistance such as food, rent, electric bill and healthcare.
Laura: Working for the Navigation Health Team, the common question I often hear is if income bars people from applying or qualifying for services.
Melissa: Since I’m on the Healthcare Navigation side, most people are looking for some kind of access to healthcare. It is extremely rewarding to be the person who helps them get the medical services they need.
Q: What characteristic do you think is important for you to have for the position you work in?
Cynthia: The ability to really listen to and empathize with callers; many times what appears to be a call for one thing is really about so much more.
Laura: Patience and sympathy plays a big role in the work we do. I believe everyone can relate to life circumstances that can happen at anytime and with these two characteristics it’s important to the service we provide.
Melissa: Being detail-oriented, multi-tasking and having the ability to mentor and coach others in a constructive manner are most important to my position.
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
Cynthia: The amazing, caring people I am privileged to work with.
Laura: My position enables me to support new staff in their learning curve phase and by providing the best community service. It gives me the gratification knowing my knowledge is making a change in the community in some way.
Melissa: The strategies I use daily to ensure that we have good phone coverage and forecasting our metrics to make sure we meet our contractual goals.
Thank you Cynthia, Laura, Melissa and Jessica for your dedication to serving others with UWATX over the past five years and for making a difference for those in need in our community.