Every hour of every day, someone in the Aiken County area needs assistance with essential services.
The Aiken County chapter of the American Red Cross and the local Help Line 211 are teaming up to provide information and services, from disaster relief to securing adequate care for a child or an aging parent.
"When the Federal Communications Commission assigned 211 as the nationwide number to connect callers to community information and referral about critical health and human services in 2000, the system had already been running in Aiken for 23 years," says Cam Varner, of the Aiken Help Line. "In our agency's first year, approximately 600 calls were cataloged. Over the years, the 211 Help Line has far exceeded that number, and in 2005 supported almost 11,000 calls."
The 211 Help Line is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Trained staff are available to listen and support callers by providing information about services for everyday needs and in times of crisis.
This is a valuable collaboration for our chapter. The 211 system reaches beyond immediate emergency assistance and allows our disaster volunteers to assist clients with permanent recovery.
In the future, both agencies plan to endorse state-level legislative initiatives, cross-train volunteers between services, establish standard operating procedures to work collectively as well as facilitate new initiatives among newly developed 211 or American Red Cross programs that may be introduced to our community.
Johanna Blue is the executive director of the Aiken County chapter of the American Red Cross.