When COVID-19 hit Central Texas, the team here at United Way responded quickly. Almost a year later, our 2-1-1 team is still responding to increased calls for questions and help around COVID-19, and help in general. (At times in the first few months of the pandemic, our call volume was 10x the average.)
The Governor has said that 2-1-1 is THE place to go for information on COVID-19. Now more than ever, people need to know where to go for food, information on testing, health services, and so many other needs. Our 2-1-1 team is working around the clock to make sure callers seeking help are connected to accurate and up-to-date information.
We know the whole community is thankful for our 2-1-1 front line heroes, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate our team this 2-1-1 Day. Meet Stephanie Lyon, Statewide Community Information Coordinator, and learn all about the importance of 2-1-1.
Want to know more about Stephanie?
What brought you to United Way ATX?
I came to United Way in the very beginning of September 2020, as a contract worker. I had been searching for meaningful, challenging, community-related social services work in the nonprofit sector for a few months. Due to being in the middle of a global pandemic and tough job market, I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted by a recruiter. I went through the interview process, and was grateful to land the position of 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist.
How long have you been working with the Nav team?
I worked as a 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist for five months. Just this week I started a new role on the team, as the Statewide Community Information Coordinator.
What is your favorite thing about working with 2-1-1?
By far the most rewarding part of being a 2-1-1 Navigation Specialist is having the privilege of “meeting” callers from across the state. In addition to providing information, resources, and referrals to Texans, we get to know–in a matter of minutes–the human on the other side of the phone, and sometimes their deepest struggles. People open up to us when they call and we need to meet them figuratively “where they are at” with compassion, empathy, open-mindedness, and a willingness to be of assistance. These raw, authentic, and often vulnerable stories are snippets of their lives, and it is an honor to be able to truly listen. I love when I get to laugh with a caller, learn from them, and relate to their real, human struggles and needs.
How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?
Explaining this role to others can be difficult, especially because the usual response is, “What is 2-1-1?” When I try to explain this position, it oftentimes is a much more complicated answer. I like to call it “Super Duper Short Term Case Management Over the Phone.” In a few minutes, callers will state unmet needs often mixed with difficult emotions, needing someone to truly listen, creatively problem-solve along their side, and advocate when necessary. What is heartwarming to me is that sometimes I hear the best synopsis of this work from the callers themselves. One of the questions we ask is, “How did you hear about us?” Countless times it has been mentioned, “I’ve been calling you for years. I tell everyone to call. If you have a question about anything, just dial 2-1-1.” Hats off to the callers with their wisdom and brevity!
Why is 2-1-1 important for our community?
2-1-1 is vitally important in all communities, as it is a lifeline, offers hope, and acts as a bridge between humans to the resources available that make us whole as a society, while shining a light on the inequities that exist. The data speaks for itself: there is a real lack of help in many communities for some of your most basic, fundamental human needs. The pandemic has pronounced those deficits even more so, highlighting where we can–as a society–learn, shift, grow, and change in the future. There are so many people seeking assistance with one thing or another, and there are not enough resources to go around to help everyone. It is crucial to have this service, as it is accessible to almost anyone who can communicate via phone, in almost any language. I have spoken with people from all walks of life while working here, and this is one thing that unites us as a community: 2-1-1. Twenty-four hours of the day, one can call, speak with a friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful representative that will help find information and referrals.
What is a fun fact about you that you wish more people knew?
As outgoing and friendly as I am, loving conversations, human interaction, and being social, I am actually an introvert. In my downtime, I crave the restorative, creative, analytical hours when I am on my own, tinkering away at this or that. Being with my three dogs makes it even better! Our favorite place is our garden, where we grow food, flowers, fruit trees, cacti, succulents, and watch—always with amazement and wonder—the wildlife around us.
“This year we’re celebrating our 20th year of offering the 2-1-1 service to the Austin area. 2-1-1 continues to be a way to scalably provide compassionate, professional, human-supported, social service navigation to a variety of populations, many hard to reach, using our telephone platform. This is more important than ever as COVID-19 has illuminated the multiple barriers many people face in accessing online resources and the importance of professional, compassionate support in accessing community resources. Our compassionate, talented, and knowledgeable 2-1-1 team are truly heroes to the thousands of callers who rely on our service as a lifeline.”
Amy Price | Vice President of the Navigation Center