INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Connect2Help 211 is the largest independent referral agency and crisis center in the country. The 24-hour hotline connects people in need in Indiana to the agencies who can best serve them.
“Last year we answered almost 270,000 phone calls,” says Lynn Engel, president and CEO of Connect2Help 211.
Connect2Help maintains a database of about 20,000 programs and agencies state-wide that deliver support to people who need any kind of assistance from paying utility bills to accessing food pantries and intervention for domestic violence.
“There are people who are hurting and they don’t know who to turn to,” says Kimberly Williams, a phone operator for Connect2Help 211. “They need to know we’re out here.”
Williams was once a caller who needed help. She is a single mother of four children and needed assistance with clothing and food.
“Even though you work and you try to make it day-to-day and pay all the bills, there’s still times when you struggle,” says Williams. “They’ve definitely helped me, so I wanted to do my part in helping anybody I can.”
Williams became employed by the agency in early 2014. In a recent review by Connect2Help concerning caller information, the organization found 48 percent of callers were asking for help for the first time.
“It’s new people all the time needing help — and I think that gets lost,” says Engel. “What we forget is the person who came under the unemployment rate three months ago is now employed, but another person has taken their place because they’ve lost their job.”
Review more of the 2013 report here.
Connect2Help 211 is one of 10 call centers around the state. It operates independently of United Way as an information referral agency and crisis center. It’s the only call center in Indiana that operates 24 hours a day.
“The other agencies are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so when they’re done at 5 p.m., their calls are automatically routed to us from all over the state,” says Engel.
Connect2Help 211 employs more than 50 full-time and part-time phone operators, called “specialists,” and Williams says the role she plays is fulfilling.
“I just love helping people. and a lot of times — well all the time — when you help other people, you don’t focus on what you’re going through. Because there’s always somebody going through something that’s a lot worse than what you have gone through.”