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Information on local food, shelter assistance now only one call away

POSTED December 22, 2009 8:02 p.m.
To better help those in need, United Way has designated the phone number 2-1-1 as a one-stop resource information center for county residents.
“During the holiday, the number of individuals looking to give help, and those looking for a little help of their own is at an all time high,” said Francine DiCiano of the United Way. “By dialing 2-1-1, Stanislaus County residents need only call one number to reach a live person who can connect them with services they’re in need of or with volunteers in their area.”
The number 2-1-1 is a free and confidential number that connects Stanislaus County residents to community information and services, which includes healthcare, rent and mortgage assistance, food and shelter, job training, transportation, childcare, senior care, veteran services and more volunteer services.
They even have information on holiday food baskets, Toys for Tots, food banks and volunteer opportunities. There are over 2,100 referral services they can connect people with, DiCiano said.
“With the economy, 2-1-1 is a huge benefit because there are so many people utilizing the number that have never had to use those services before.”  
On average, to find this sort of help or to find volunteer services it takes about eight different phone calls to get the right service, according to the United Way. By dialing the number 2-1-1 it serves as a one-stop shop to better assist those in Stanislaus County to make the search for help or to help others a little easier and it saves them a lot of time.  
Annually they take about 4,000 calls and make 7,500 referrals, DiCiano said.
People on the other line for the 2-1-1 services are given a variety of information to assist families, volunteers and service organizations.
They can provide information about local food banks, holiday gift programs and they can provide different locations of local cold-weather shelters being offered this winter to help keep those that are homeless warm.
“Our call center spends a lot of time with the callers to make sure they get everything they need,” DiCiano said.
Along with helping those in need, the people in the 2-1-1 call center can assist those that want to volunteer during the holiday season by identifying programs that need assistance serving and preparing meals, or collecting, sorting and delivering toys and clothing donations, all through their volunteer center.
“Parents looking to provide their families with some extra warmth or holiday cheer this December can call 2-1-1 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” DiCiano said. “Our specialists are able to answer calls in 150 languages and are armed with information on blanket and coat banks throughout Stanislaus County.”  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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