Askren: Help United Way reduce poverty

Good Saturday, everyone! As our campaign is kicking off, I want to let you know about the programs United Way of Danville Area funds, due to the generosity of our donors. So, I am going to write about each one for the next several weeks. My hope is always to give you new information that can help you or someone you know.

With all that is going on, which everyone is dealing with since the pandemic hit, I want to write this week on PATH Crisis 2-1-1.

When we started funding this program we gave Vermilion County residents a resource literally at their fingertips. By dialing 211, you have access to available resources and services in our area.

This program is a national program, meaning you can be in California and dial 211 and they will find you resources in the ZIP code you are presently in. So remember that when you are traveling. Of course, we pay for the service to be available only for our Vermilion County residents.

PATH Crisis 2-1-1 is a 24/7/365 answering service. PATH stands for Providing Access To Help. We receive quarterly reports from PATH just like we do from all the agencies we fund. On average, PATH answers 63 calls a month from residents in Vermilion County. But in March alone, they answered 126 calls.

I don’t know about you, but with all the uncertainties that happened in March, I am glad there was a place our residents could call for help. A place that wasn’t going to judge them, that understood their worries and their struggles.

When I started in this office in 2016, I would say PATH Crisis 2-1-1 was mainly for someone needing help finding a food pantry or housing assistance, and it was. But then I went to a conference in Florida and I realized it was so much more. It is, as its name implies, a crisis line! For some, a crisis is needing food to feed their family, but for others, it is the difference between life or death.

For those contemplating suicide, it’s an essential resource — dialing 211 and getting a person on the other end who wants to help you, not judge you.

In 2017, we didn’t even see suicide calls listed on our quarterly reports. But in 2018, they started showing up. On average they were getting eight calls a quarter for Vermilion County; that is 32 on average for the year.

I thought that was a lot of lives we were possibly saving, but the last two years we average 17 suicide calls and 14 crisis intervention calls a quarter. We doubled the number of individuals asking for help. This is a must-have for the health and well-being of so many in our community.

Please call or come by and ask for 2-1-1 cards that you can put out at your place of employment or anywhere that resources are made available for the community to receive. Get a card and carry it in your purse, wallet, or glove box in your car. Giving someone the 2-1-1 resource may just save a life.

If you want to see a video on this program, as well as any other program that we fund, you can see them all on YouTube at United Way of Danville Area or by following this link . You also may donate today by texting WIN2020 to 313131.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Sherri M. Askren is president of United Way of Danville Area, Inc., 28 W. North St., Danville, IL 61832. Phone, 442-3512.

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