Everyone knows to call 911 in an emergency, but what do you do when you need help finding food? Or getting a job? Or, more importantly, seeking shelter when your home environment is unsafe?
In Tennessee, you can dial 211 and get that help immediately.
The free, confidential line is backed by United Way of Greater Chattanooga and provides financial, domestic, health or disaster-related information to those who need it. No matter what callers are struggling with, in-house specialists listen to their needs and refer them to the proper resources.
“Callers might need help paying rent or a utility bill, or they might need a voucher for food or information on domestic violence shelters — it can be any number of things,” says Jeana Lee, vice president of marketing & corporate engagement at United Way of Greater Chattanooga.
“The people answering 211 calls are truly on the front lines of community need. Many of our employees and campaign partners take the opportunity to sit in on calls just to be reminded of why United Way is so important.”
What is the United Way?
United Way has made a mission of strengthening communities all across the world. In Chattanooga specifically, they’ve been doing that for almost 100 years.
Their mission is simple: improve communities.
The ways they do that, however, are many and varied. Because they provide so many services, people often aren’t sure of the ways United Way can help. The 211 referral line is one example of how United Way is making help more accessible. But they have many more programs and organizations that make an impact.
Casting a wider net
“We have in-house programs that provide services to the community like Project Ready for School and Building Stable Lives,” says Lee. “We also fund upwards of 40 partner agencies like Clinica Medicos and Signal Centers.”
These programs all support United Way’s mission in different ways:
- Project Ready for School helps prepare children to learn by doing everything from signing kids up for Imagination Library books to setting them up with learning check-ins.
- Building Stable Lives helps families achieve stability through coaching and personal support, with partners in five Chattanooga neighborhoods.
- Clinica Medicos makes quality health care accessible to Chattanooga’s underserved Latino community regardless of insurance status or language.
- Signal Centers offers services to children and adults with disabilities and other challenges so they can achieve lifelong independence.
In support of causes like these, United Way mines and develops young talent through The Volunteer Center, a popular way for young adults in 16 counties to unite through community service for nonprofits, government agencies and religious entities. They bolster those efforts through Emerging Leaders United, a development program for professionals under 40 that fosters leadership through the lens of community investment and diversity.
“I think people in the Greater Chattanooga area would be surprised to find out all that United Way does,” says Lee.
Small amounts, big differences
As a community organization, United Way takes a grassroots approach to fundraising, often relying on small gifts from many sources to help them achieve their goals.
“We believe in collective impact,” says Lee. “A gift of $10 may not feel like much, but when you have many employees at a company giving at even a small amount, the impact is tremendous.”
It’s one reason why, for many years, United Way of Greater Chattanooga has focused on workplace giving campaigns. The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee community has many donors, volunteers, advocates and people who understand the importance of United Way’s services, so the two organizations are connected through a powerful partnership.
“Every gift is valuable, and because of strong Pacesetter campaigns like those at BlueCross, we’ve already made great strides toward our goal,” says Lee. Pacesetter campaigns are just what they sound like: They “set the pace” for a corporate campaign success by demonstrating outstanding results to the community, peer businesses and employees.
BlueCross also helps raise visibility, funds and awareness for United Way in the community through events, a few of which recently included the:
- 2018 BlueCross Day of Caring at the Creative Discovery Museum
- A medical forum hosted by BlueCross on Adverse Childhood Experiences, and
- A Mentor Event at the Chattanooga Zoo.
“I believe we’re paving the way for unprecedented community impact,” says Lee.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do together.”