For those of you who are familiar with 2-1-1, you know it is a powerful service. In Central Texas, 2-1-1 is leveraged by thousands of people stretching a 10-County region from Bastrop to Llano and beyond. Every day, people who work hard, but still struggle to make ends meet contact 2-1-1 to access free and confidential services for food, healthcare, transportation, and more.
Today, on National 2-1-1 Day, we are celebrating our fearless and dedicated staff. No matter the situation, the 2-1-1 team listens, identifies underlying problems, and connects people with resources and services in our community – but most importantly they exercise empathy. Keep reading to hear from three dedicated 2-1-1 team members about how working for this service has changed their lives.
For 11-year veteran Jessica Venson, Director of Client Services, amazement was her first impression of 2-1-1.
“The fact that my job was to listen to people’s stories, help them problem solve possible solutions and then also be able to provide them with a direction was unreal,” Jessica said. “It didn’t seem like this could actually be a real job…. a place where I could genuinely show my concern or care, and find ways to support others in my community.”
After transitioning to the 2-1-1 team in August of 2019, 2-1-1 Call Specialist Cassie Gallardo said her eyes were opened to the depth of the need in Central Texas.
“Before I started working United Way ATX, I was a struggling mother and I contacted 2-1-1 for help,” Cassie said. “Because I’ve used the service, I can relate to every caller. When they are telling me their story, I am able to connect with them, empathize with their situation and better understand what they need.”
2-1-1 serves as the largest social services information hub and connects individuals and families to all kinds of critical recourses, and the gravity of the services is not lost on the team members.
“A 2-1-1 call specialist has to understand how to empathize with every caller,” Cassie said. “It’s not just doing your job, but actually being there for someone and making sure they are getting what they need and more.”
Call Specialist Arnoldo Longoria knew he wanted to work with 2-1-1 from the day he started at United Way ATX nine years ago. Just like any job, people come and go, and Arnoldo has the unique pleasure of witnessing these journeys of transformation.
“As I see people come and go, I can see how they are never going to be the same after leaving here,” Arnoldo said. “It’s a hard, but rewarding job. From the moment we log on to the moment we log off, we have to be attentive because every call is very important.”
At the end of the day, we all have struggles. Thanks to 2-1-1 team members like Jessica, Cassie, and Arnoldo callers across Central Texas have an empathic ear to hear their stories and connect them with information and resources that can help.
For more information about 2-1-1 at United Way ATX, contact Amy Price at Amy.Price@uwatx.org.