211

The COVID-19 global pandemic has extracted its toll on many fronts – socially, emotionally, professionally, financially - and many more. 

Service agencies experienced COVID’s brunt, too. But there’s one thing about Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley. Its agencies are abundant, sometimes to the point where bewilderment could likely set in while sorting through potential resources.

Good news. Prophetically, a one-stop call network known as 211 was launched through United Way St. Croix Valley ahead of the pandemic. 211’s network in Wisconsin has grown to eight collaborating organizations offering their services, from the St. Croix Valley to Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Menasha, Milwaukee, Wausau, and Wisconsin Rapids.

With or without 211, calls for help and assistance have significantly increased over the last 12-plus months. Imagine the region’s most vulnerable and their struggles to cope with loneliness, food insecurity, mental health services, elder care, or housing assistance and shelters. COVID doesn’t discriminate. Add young individuals and families, successful business people, educators, elected officials, and retirees to the impacted list.

Help starts with 211. A call connects individuals to literally thousands of nonprofit and government services in the St. Croix Valley and beyond. Best of all, personal assistance is available through a friendly, understanding voice 24/7/365. A search through 211 services yields response topics on aging and disability services, child and youth, utilities, transportation, health and dental, and employment, along with education and income assistance. 211 associates offer assistance in over 180 languages.

Connection options

There are many ways to get connected. Simply call 211 from a cellular phone or landline anywhere in Wisconsin. Dial 877-947-2211 if you have a non-715 area code or if the 211 option does not work. Or, text your ZIP code to 898211. A Monday-Friday, 9: a.m. to 5 p.m. online chat line is another option. It uses a first name and ZIP code to get the chat started. Another online option is available at 211wisconsin.communityos.org/. There’s a searchable database using a keyword(s) as well as guided and advanced searches, too.

211 is not the 911 emergency number, and it’s not the all-knowing 411:‘information please” number, meaning 211 can’t help with a cat stuck in a tree or hours of operation, take-out specials, or movie start times.

Residents in the St. Croix Valley may wish to preview 211’s options ahead of a problem. And the problem does not have to be COVID-related. Refer 211 to a neighbor or family member who may be in need. Keep the number top-of-mind. It’s a great resource.

Here’s to United Way St. Croix Valley for its vision in launching the 211 network. The local United Way website says it advances the common good by creating opportunities for all. It focuses on projects supporting education, financial stability and health -- the building blocks for a good quality of life. It works with businesses, individuals and nonprofits to solve community problems in St. Croix, Pierce, Polk and Burnett counties.

United Way St. Croix Valley responds to local community needs. The 211 network reflects a solution to those needs.

Bill Rubin is the St. Croix Economic Development Center executive director.

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