In the last few years the number of people in our community who need help with everything from daily expenses to Christmas gifts has gone way up. People need help putting food on the table and putting presents under the Christmas tree. If you need help this holiday season all you have to do is dial 2-1-1. In just a mater of days hundreds of people have already made that call.
Bill Kitson, the President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Toledo, says about 200 people have already called the United Way's 2-1-1 holiday assistance line, "Every year more and more families are reaching out for help, so 2-1-1 gets ramped up as early as possible. We start taking calls on October 1st and we take the calls thru Christmas."
Kitson says the United Way acts as the umbrella organization for about 30 local charities that offer help during the holidays, "There are a lot of non-profit organizations that want to help families during the holidays. What the United Way's 2-1-1 does is to provide a clearing house to let families call one place, once and not have to bounce from agency to agency. This way every family gets the help and support they need over the holidays."
The United Way and the other non-profit agencies expect to help about three thousand families this year so Maricele Alcala, the 2-1-1 program manager, says making that call to 2-1-1 sooner rather than later is key, "We need to know how many families we're helping by the end of October because the Salvation Army needs to plan just how many toys and how much food will be needed to help those families."
The Salvation Army has been organizing holiday toy and food drives for decades. The organization is part of the United Way's 2-1-1 holiday assistance effort. Captain Valerie Lopes says the need in our community continues to grow, "As the economy gets more and more difficult, as gas and food prices go up, families find it hard to make ends meet for their daily needs,so then how do you add Christmas to that?"
In addition to calling 2-1-1, the Salvation Army is bringing help right to the community. The first three weeks in October Salvation Army staff members are going to specific locations like Adelante and Jobs and Family Services and taking applications for holiday assistance . Captain Lopes says the last week in October they will take applications on site at their downtown office on North Erie Street, "There are more and more people with no car, no gas, no baby sitter who can watch their children while they go fill out the application, so we thought it would be easier to get out where the people are and get as close as we could."
The United Way has increased the number of call takers and volunteers to help with the holiday assistance line. Just dial 2-1-1 if you need help,you can also call that number of you want to help a family in need.
The Salvation Army will be distributing the toys and food at the Erie Street Market December 13th and 14th.