National 2-1-1 Day, celebrated on February 11, recognizes the more than 200 2-1-1 helplines located across the country.
For the past 20 years, United Way for Greater Austin’s 2-1-1 helpline has connected thousands of Central Texans to local, statewide, and national resources such as housing, food, health, child care, education, employment, transportation, counseling, disaster information, and more. This year, we are celebrating 2-1-1 Day by recognizing our compassionate Navigation Specialists, who power this service and work around the clock to answer the call for members of our community.
Just last year, our 2-1-1 Navigation Specialists answered 157,514 calls for help in our region. One of these specialists is Susan Martinez. She began working at United Way last year because she believes everyone in our community deserves to have their basic needs met.
“There’s a real disparity in wealth here that’s getting bigger and bigger,” Susan said. “We all have to do what we can to close that gap. I feel like it’s our duty as humans to help out and do our part, however small that may be.”
Read more about why and how Susan answers the call day in, day out to support fellow Texans – and how each and every call advances our mission to fight poverty.
What brought you to United Way?
I’ve always been involved in some sort of volunteer work in nonprofits since my 20’s. I liked that the mission of United Way is to end poverty because it’s such a huge problem all over the country and I see it a lot in our city. And so I jumped at the chance to try and do something about it in my own small way.
What is your favorite thing about working with 2-1-1?
I really, really enjoy talking to Texans all over the state, and knowing that I can help them—that’s pretty awesome. On a day to day basis, we take hundreds of calls, so it’s great to know that I’m able to help them find a resource, help them find a way to get their rent paid or find a food pantry.
I look forward to going to work every morning, and everybody I’ve met is so kind and big-hearted. I just feel really proud to be part of the organization.
Why do you do this work?
At this point in history, it’s necessary for all of us to do something. The world is in a precarious spot. I feel like it’s our duty as humans to help out and do our part — however small that may be.
What day-to-day things do you help callers with?
We’ve had a lot of calls for people to be registered for evacuation during a disaster. I also help people find food pantries, resources to get their utilities paid or their rent or mortgage, or if someone is having legal problems we will help them find legal representation. We also have a lot of people that need help with drug and alcohol or mental health treatment.
Why is 2-1-1 important for our community?
There’s a real disparity in wealth here that’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s becoming more and more apparent. We’ve all got to step up to the plate and do what we can to close that gap, so that regular blue collar working people can still have a chance at a decent life.
What should others know about 2-1-1?
It’s so comprehensive. We offer lots and lots of referrals. There are so many ways we can help.
Know someone looking for assistance with food, transportation, housing, or other resources? Tell them to give us a call at 2-1-1 to get connected to help in our community. 2-1-1 is free and available 24/7.