Every year, United Ways across the network celebrate Feb. 11 as 211 Day to raise awareness about the 24/7 information and referral hotline and the incredible teams that power it. This year, in celebration of 20 years of United Way 211 answering the calls for neighbors in need, United Way of Northeast Florida is highlighting United Way 211 team members, sharing how their dedication is making a difference in the lives of families and individuals in our community.
I have been employed with United Way 211 for the last 5 years. I am very passionate about the work I do. It brings me so much joy to be able to help the community.
Throughout the years, I have talked to so many people, but my most memorable call is when I first spoke to *Mary. I was new to crisis calls and a nervous wreck. Mary is a hospitalized Mental Health Resource Center patient with no no one to visit or call her. She appeared to be dealing with a lot mental health challenges. She had a lot to say, but no one was willing to listen. It was very hard for others to understand Mary. I felt it was appropriate to allow her the safe space she needed to simply be herself and express whatever was in her heart.
She was in a broken place. Her voice was dull. She sounded hopeless, but as she continued to call she began to open up more and eventually, her tone of voice changed. She started talking about joy, happiness and hope. Now, she calls just to check in with us. She says we are her friends and family.
Feeling isolated and judged is not a good feeling. I could hear in her voice she just needed a friend. I didn’t expect her to call back and ask for me personally so often, but every time I talk to her she says she will always be my friend. I’m very grateful she feels the love and support I have for her. I will always remember her.
Sometimes the hardest part of the job is not being able to celebrate the victories with callers when they overcome their most difficult challenges. You can’t help everyone. Some stories make you sad and make you think about how much we have to be thankful for because it could be any one of us on the other end of the line asking for help.
I am a proud member of United Way 211. I love my team. This organization will forever be my family. I can boldly say not only is United Way 211 making a difference in the community, it is also making a difference in my life. I look back to when I first started five years ago versus today, and we have come such a long way. I appreciate the leadership, the devotion, the love and the unlimited amount of support. We will always be elite.
I don’t know much about the other 211’s but our local United Way 211 will always be the best. I look forward to seeing how we continue to grow in 2022 and to being part of this team for another five years to come and many more.
We’re thankful for call center specialists like Cheree and everything they do to help neighbors in need across Northeast Florida. To learn more about services and resources available through United Way 211, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-help or dial 2-1-1 (1-904-632-0600).
*Mary is a pseudonym to protect the privacy and identity of the client.