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 calls from 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.
How long have you been a United Way 211 call center specialist and why have you stayed? I have been a call center specialist for about seven months. I’ve stayed because the work we do aligns with my personal values and above all else, because I get to help and be a resource to others.
What was your most memorable call? What rings out to me are the beginnings and endings of calls. What starts as two total strangers, one in need and the other equipped with what’s needed, ends with a caller who has received help and so much more, including laughter and gratitude for the service. I recently had a Lifeline caller share he only trusted two people: his sister and me. In my opinion, that just shows I’m doing my job and doing it well. It’s also motivation to maintain my positive spirit moving forward.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about United Way 211? I see the rise in marketing and socialization of 211 and honestly, I’m waiting to see the fruit of the great work that’s currently being sown. The word is getting out there. I believe continuing to connect 211 to real life needs in the community will help it become a “go-to” resource for people of all ages, not just older generations in crisis. Partnerships like Lyft will help attract younger people in need.
What’s the hardest part of your job? Taking Lifeline crisis calls knowing every call will not end what I deem as “ideal.” I have to accept when I’ve done my best and given all that I have to fight for someone struggling with the decision to live or die.
What are you most proud of as a member of the United Way 211 team? I am proud to be part of a great group of people who are strong and supportive. They are what make this work doable as well. We could not do this without the love and support of each other.
How do you personally know United Way 211 makes a difference in the community? My story goes beyond me to the life-changing help my big sister received over 14 years ago. We recently talked about it and it everything has come full circle. United Way 211 has been a staple resource she shares with others. I’ve recently discovered it’s her secret always knowing about everything happening in the city. Now, I have the “secret” and can be a blessing through this database not only to her, but to somebody else’s friend or loved one.
We’re thankful for call center specialists like Serena 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).