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A call for help: Indiana 211 and United Way asking for donations

December 16, 2010|By Chad Damp (damp@wsbt.com)

SOUTH BEND — Indiana 211 is a free phone service that helps people find assistance in tough times. But in the past few weeks, the organization has been unable to help because programs are running out.

Many services like heating assistance programs have ended or filled up, and many organizations are running low on toys for the holidays. As the demand for help has gone up, donations haven't.

The Indiana 211 center in South Bend has received more than 30,000 calls this year from people looking for financial help. But as the end of the year approaches, many callers are getting an unfortunate answer.

"For holiday assistance, as of [Wednesday], for heating assistance, it's closed, it's gone,” said 211 director, David Sisk. “The money has been spoken for already."

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Many people are also looking for toys for their children, but supplies at many charities have run out. Indiana 211 organizers say many of those who call are just not familiar with asking for assistance.

"We are seeing a lot of desperation with callers who are looking for help for the first time, but unfortunately some of those services they're looking for are full," said Sisk.

Nearly half the calls the 211 center receives are from people seeking holiday assistance. Having to tell those people that there's nothing they can do to help is hard on the people who work there.

"It becomes a very heartwrenching thing for all of us here in the call center," said 13-year 211 specialist, Brian Metzler.

The United Way, which works in partnership with 211, says the current problem is attributed to one thing.

"Donations are down,” said Karen Sommers with the United Way of St. Joseph County. “Whether they are cash donations, donations of food, donations of clothing. So it's really creating a challenging situation."

And while both organizations continue to do what they can for those in need, they hope people can give just a little to help them in their time of need.

"To give food, to do whatever you can, that would do huge things for the community," said Metzler.

People who would like to help can call 211 and they can tell you where to send your donations. The United Way accepts donations throughout the year and right now, every donation of money will be matched by the Indiana Association of United Way. Organizers say every little bit helps.
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