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United Way of Greater Toledo’s NWO 211 service joins effort to support Florida Residents impacted by Hurricane Ian

Written by Ryan Bunch

Ryan Bunch is the senior director of outreach & advocacy for United Way of Greater Toledo. For media inquiries please email Ryan.Bunch@unitedwaytoledo.org.

October 5, 2022

[October 5, 2022, TOLEDO, OH] – United Way of Greater Toledo’s (UWGT) 211 is the region’s go-to source for emergency assistance and disaster relief. This week, however, 211’s Community Resource Advisors (CRAs) – the trained staff at the heart of the service – are answering calls assisting Central Florida residents in response to Hurricane Ian.

As the hurricane unfolded on Thursday, September 29, 2022, 211 networks across the nation were called upon for help. Northwest Ohio’s (NWO) staff rose to the occasion in partnership with Gryphon Place, a partner of Michigan 211, who serves as the disaster backup for Heart of Florida United Way. CRAs across Michigan and Ohio began connecting those affected by Hurricane Ian to shelter, food, utilities, and other basic needs. Areas supported include 14 counties along the Gulf Coast and the Greater Orlando area. As of Wednesday, the Ohio network had received nearly 1,700 phone calls alone, not including text and web contacts.

211 staff provide up-to-date information on shelters, housing assistance, and safety tips. Alleviating overwhelming volume for Florida call centers, 211 offers inquiring residents reliable information to help meet their basic needs, including Spanish-speaking services. CRAs are specially trained to guide emergency conversations in a careful and calm manner, asking questions through conversation to ensure callers receive all of the information and access to services they need, often even beyond the reason for their initial call.

“As we saw throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, 211 provides essential information to people in times of emergency or disaster. One of the most powerful elements of our service however, are the people behind the calls – being able to talk to a compassionate person in a time of crisis is what makes 211 so powerful,” said Jill Bunge, Vice President of Impact and Outreach at United Way of Greater Toledo, the organization that manages NW Ohio’s 211 service.

“Our teams were quickly trained, provided a lot of reference guides and supports across the network and have done an extraordinary job fielding a lot of very difficult calls. We’re thankful to 211 leadership for helping to mobilize very quickly and support the staff. Additionally, the support from our Staywell Team and 211 Toledo staff has been truly invaluable in our mobilization efforts,” said Emily Ruckel, Vice President of Technology & 211 Operations at Gryphon Place.

211 is a free 24/7/365 national information and referral service and is accessible by text, phone, and web. 211 supports communities before, during and after times of emergencies and disasters. This includes directing people to evacuation routes and shelters beforehand, or helping individuals and families get food, water, and emergency supplies afterward. Annually, the service receives more than 75,000 contacts. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, that number rose to over 100,000 as area residents sought unemployment and rental assistance, vaccines and healthcare, childcare, and access to food and transportation services. Learn more at www.unitedwaytoledo.org/211 OR www.211nwo.org.

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We believe in uniting the caring power of people to improve lives. United Way of Greater Toledo brings a worldwide network into neighborhoods throughout Northwest Ohio. Proudly serving residents of Lucas, Ottawa, and Wood Counties, since 1918 we have believed that we all benefit from each other’s success. As one of the longest-serving charitable organizations in our region, we are trusted, innovative, collaborative and accountable. Most importantly, your contributions serve neighbors right here at home.

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