United Way launches program for Bradley County, Polk County

United Way launches program for Bradley County, Polk County

July 25th, 2014 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Matt Ryerson

Matt Ryerson

Photo by Randall Higgins /Times Free Press.


About the United Way of Greater Chattanooga's 211

• Answered 38,064 calls in 2013

• 27,181 of those calls were from unique callers

• In 2013, 48,541 people were served through 211 calls

Source: United Way

People who need help with their utilities, have questions about after-school programs or are seeking information from a wide variety of service providers have found the United Way of Greater Chattanooga's 211 number to be a helpful resource.

Now the Community Action Network, a nonprofit partner with the United Way of Bradley County, has developed a database that will allow the 211 resource in Chattanooga officially to spread into Polk and Bradley counties on Aug. 1.

The database will coordinate services between the two counties and the 211 call center in Chattanooga. The database has local information uploaded to it and that information is conveyed to the call center in Chattanooga, said Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of the United Way of Bradley County.

"The new database will help Polk and Bradley county residents get connected to the most helpful resources," Ryerson said.

Ryerson said the new system works similarly to a phone application. The database collects information from local resources and makes it accessible to the Chattanooga call center, so that when Polk and Bradley county residents call for help, their needs can be directed to someone locally who can help.

Just like a restaurant app that tells you where your favorite restaurant is, this database allows callers' needs to be matched with providers who can help them, Ryerson said.

Dianna Jarvis has worked as an information referral specialist at the United Way of Greater Chattanooga for 11 years. She has answered 211 calls, and said she has seen the program change from a simple referral provider to more of a case management program.

"We can help callers out of their situation by connecting them with the right resources," she said. "We are doing more than putting on Band-Aids."

"Without using 211, any person trying to get assistance would make on average seven phone calls before they received the help they needed," Jarvis said.

By adding the database from Polk and Bradley counties, Jarvis anticipates that the number of calls the center receives will increase.

"We will get more calls, but now we are also going to know better what services are available in these counties," Jarvis said.

And the database also helps service providers in Bradley and Polk counties know what resources callers are seeking.

The United Way office in Chattanooga will meet weekly with those from Bradley County to address the needs that are being requested in their specific area.

"We will be able to track the needs in our community better," Ryerson said.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.