United Way has the 2-1-1 on aid

York County residents can soon be easily connected to local agencies and organizations by pushing three numbers on the telephone: 2-1-1.

United Way of York County leaders unveiled the 2-1-1 service during their 2007 campaign kickoff Wednesday morning at the Anne Springs Close Dairy Barn in Fort Mill.

In addition to its newest service, the organization also announced its campaign goal of $2.1 million in cash and pledges.

By dialing 2-1-1, residents can be linked to trained staff in a call center in Columbia. The staff will then connect them to United Way-supported local organizations to assist with food, shelter, aid with rent and utilities, volunteer opportunities, substance abuse treatment and more. The 2-1-1 service is expected to be up and running as soon as Saturday.

"If you are in a crisis and you don't know where to turn ... you will have a resource and somewhere to turn for someone to help you with rent," said Scott Huffmon, a United Way volunteer. "Connecting the needs to the resources is what 2-1-1 is all about."

York County will be one of 12 counties in the state to have access to 2-1-1.

The United Way's impact teams and vision council, which were trying to address some York County residents' concerns revealed in the 2005 Community News Study, came up with the idea to offer 2-1-1. The study showed that families did not know who to call for assistance when needed.

Many hope 2-1-1 will be a step in the right direction.

"This is an opportunity for us to improve our human infrastructure," said Rock Hill City Councilman John Gettys, a vision council volunteer for the United Way.

He said with many road projects under way in the county, now is the time to focus on the population growth and the need to help others. "This isn't a luxury. It's a necessity."

The United Way has committed $30,000 for 2-1-1's first year. It's estimated that 2-1-1 will receive a minimum of 250 phones.

The United Way also introduced Gwen Thompson as this year's campaign chair. Thompson told the audience with everyone's help they can make the $2.1 million goal.

The "What Matters" card will continue to be offered to those who give $240 or more toward the campaign.

For information on giving to the United Way of York County's annual campaign, call 324-2735 or 684-9847.

Those who give $240 or more will receive the "What Matters" card, a special discount card to 15 local businesses. To view a list of businesses participating in the "What Matters" program, visit www.unitedwayofyc.org.