Access to Centre County human services, organizations and resources just became much easier.
The Pennsylvania 2-1-1-call hotline can provide a service that is faster for people trying to reach whatever need they are seeking, said Tammy Grentzel, executive director of the Centre County United Way.
Grentzel said citizens can call about food, shelter, transportation or childcare, and specialists are able to forward the caller to the service they need.
“For example, if there was a flood or other natural disaster locally, volunteers can call the 2-1-1 to help,” Grentzel said. “Emergency responders can coordinate with the Red Cross or the Salvation Army to help with resources for volunteers.”
Director of the Community Help Centre Bonnie Tatterson said plans for the hotline have been in the works for a decade.
“The Pennsylvania 2-1-1 is a milestone for Centre County and has been a culmination of partnership, funding and diverse support,” Tatterson said.
The hotline was funded by a $225,000 primary start-up grant from the Centre County Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Grentzel said.
The new 2-1-1 hotline reaches a 16-county area in Central Pennsylvania, which Centre County is included in, she said.
Before the database, Tatterson said it took callers seeking information about seven to nine calls before they found the service they needed. The 2-1-1 hotline “eliminates that wasted energy it took to find the right service,” she said.
The call service and database officially launched into live operation on Tuesday, making the transfer from call partners to the Community Centre’s 24/7 service seamless, Tatterson said.
Tatterson said the Centre County United Way has been a big donor and helped to fund the necessary hardware, data and staff for the hotline center in State College. She said about 40 Penn State students work at the hotline.
Executive Director of the Child Development and Family Council of Centre County Anne Walker said the 2-1-1 is a valuable resource for citizens of Centre County.
“It opens up an opportunity for information to all be in one place for people who need help,” Walker said.
In the future, Tatterson said she hopes to add recreation services to the database in addition to the human services. It will be an ongoing process of adding dynamic and changing services, she said.
Since it’s public launch Tuesday, Tatterson said the call center has seen a slight rise in calls, but like any new organization, it needs time to get the word out to the community to let them know what 2-1-1 can offer.