On September 14th, United Way of Lancaster County’s Associate Director of Community Initiatives, Julie Kennedy, joined senior staff from United Way Worldwide in Washington, D.C., where they facilitated a Congressional Staff luncheon. 100 participants received critical education about 211 services and discussion was held around the bipartisan HELP Act (HR 3498 / S1798). The room was at capacity (100) for the gathering, information about 211’s essential services as they relate to the bipartisan HELP Act. In prior months, both 988 and 911 received additional funding from the current administration, which the group applauded but collectively agreed that the 24-hour, 365 day-per-year 211 information and referral service deserves the same consideration. 211 is the number that can ultimately prevent neighbors from having to call 988 or 911. Resource Navigators are informed, empathetic, and fully trained to quickly respond to the escalating needs of the community.
Kennedy’s 211 story is special because she utilized the service before she herself became a 211 Resource Navigator. She states, “I have the invaluable understanding of how it feels to pick up the phone when everything feels hopeless. I was told in rehab that I had to let go of all people, places, and things from my past life. Those parts of my life were false fortitudes of support. No one from my past life cared about my outcomes or my wellbeing.”
When she spoke to a Resource Navigator at 211, she was met with “warmth and compassion”. Kennedy initially called 211 for assistance after completing drug & alcohol rehabilitation at Caron in Wernersville PA. Once she was back in her hometown of Lancaster PA, she found herself in need of resources to support her recovery. She also needed to find a way to fulfill 200 hours of community service she had accumulated in active addiction. Upon mentioning to the call specialist that she had spent over a decade working in contact centers, she was told that United Way of Lancaster County’s VITA tax service needed individuals to take calls and make tax appointments for community members.
Months after completing her hours with United Way of Lancaster County, Kennedy noticed a job posting for 211. She applied for the position and was hired by the organization in the beginning of 2018. Initially taking the role of Resource Specialist, she was promoted several times to her role today as the Associate Director of Community Initiatives. She credits 211 and the United Way staff for believing in her when she needed it the most. Being able to share her story at the Congressional Luncheon last week, and bringing attention to the service that initiated transformation in her life, created a full circle moment that was celebrated by all in attendance.