Help is a phone call away - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Help is a phone call away

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

August 13, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Many of us are struggling to make ends meet these days. South Georgians who need help can find it by picking up the phone and dialing three numbers.

United Way of Southwest Georgia's 2-1-1 hotline links callers with everything from emotional to financial assistance. These days, a lot more people are picking up the phone.

It's hard to see relief in sight while high prices have a grip on everyone. Everything from gas to food continues to get expensive but there's help out there.

"All they need to do is dial 211," said Dwayne Myles, Executive Director for United Way of Southwest Georgia.

Alicia Jackson is one of the people receiving calls for assistance and lately most of those calls have been similar. "Most calls we get are from people in need of utility, rent, food, clothing, shelter," said Jackson, 211 Referral Specialist.

United Way 2-1-1 of Southwest Georgia was launched in 2006. People in 13 Southwest Georgia Counties get access to everything from food and shelter info to prescription assistance based on a zip code.

"We just type it into our system and then we try to find agencies in those areas that are able to help them," said Jackson. Calls for help have increased over the past few months.

"Right now, we're averaging 180 to 200 calls per month," said Myles.

That's up from an average of 90 a month previously.  But with that increase, there's a problem. "A lot of the agencies that we're referring them to, we have over 600 in our database, are exhausted of their resources as well," said Miles.

That makes it hard for Johnson to do the job she loves, helping people. "It's heart wrenching because there are so few resources to help," said Jackson.

So she's now calling for help. "If people can give, give more," said Jackson. That will give more people dialing 2-1-1 a reason to hang on.

The resources for 2-1-1 could soon grow. United Way leaders have plans to make the service statewide.

If you need assistance, just dial 2-1-1 or 229-888-6126.  It serves Baker, Calhoun, Crisp, Colquitt, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Lee, Mitchell, Randolph, Terrell, Wilcox and Worth Counties.

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