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The United Way's 2-1-1 Information Call Center received surprising results in their monthly report for January.
The free service received more than 1,000 calls last month from parts of Muskingum, Morgan and Perry counties. Call Center Manager, Audrey Foster says she saw a spike in the number of people requesting food services.
" 41 percent of our calls were for food needs and personal items meaning that really has gone up a lot. When I first started the call center in 2009 we were at 25 percent so that's a big jump, " said Foster.
To assist callers, operators will find out their location and try to direct them to the pantry nearest to their residence. From there the individual will be assigned to a specific food pantry. Foster says 2-1-1 is an asset to local food pantries so they are not overwhelmed by inquires.
" We do all the work for the pantries because they are run by great volunteers to filter all these calls and get people assigned because it's quite a big job to get all the information from them, where a normal 2-1-1 call may take 1 to 2 minutes a food pantry call will be five to 15 minutes," said Foster
Along with a concern for food, Foster says her team has also received a significant amount of calls due to heating and the rise in gas and propane related billing during the winter. 2-1-1 attempts to find funding and services to help callers with their needs. For more information you can dial 2-1-1.