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Senior social work majors aid 2-1-1 program

Huntington, Ind.- Huntington University social work students are working hand-in-hand with the United Way to draw attention to a little-known source of help.

On Dec. 9, 2009, the senior social work majors involved in Prof. Carla MacDonald's social work practice III class presented their findings to community leaders concerning their partnership with the Huntington County United Way to help spread the word about the 2-1-1 phone information service.

Pat Horoho, executive director of the Huntington County United Way, and MacDonald collaborated to place the project in the hands of MacDonald's social work practicum students with a goal of raising county awareness to 85 percent in Huntington County.

Social work agencies provide assistance to individuals in need, but they are only effective if someone can reach the agency. That is the mission of the First Call for Help 2-1-1 program: "to inform, guide, direct and link people in need to the appropriate human service, which alleviates or eliminates that need."

The 2-1-1 program is simple; dial 2-1-1 for free and confidential assistance concerning everyday needs such as food, finances, health-related needs and unemployment needs. In crisis situations, 2-1-1 is a resource for individuals to find information concerning shelter, food and electricity. Horoho recognized, however, that only about 50 percent of Huntington County was aware the 2-1-1 existed.

"The students' work is very much appreciated and it saves the community money, because to hire someone to do this is expensive," Horoho said. "The students are doing this as a project and they did it just as well, and they know the community."

The social work students found the most of the community does not know or understand the existence of the 2-1-1 program, or that the service is free to everyone. The students suggested that the United Way change the current poster to a more cohesive design, as well as changing the information offered on the current brochures. The reasoning is that the new and updated information will continually reach new people within the community. The social work students also suggested that positive experience from past callers be utilized in the new brochures and posters.

The students suggested utilizing Huntington University art students to create new art and designs for the 2-1-1 program This would allow for students to gain experience and for the United Way to receive well-done, inexpensive art.

"When others read that people have had good experiences," the students wrote in their report, "they are more willing to utilize the services themselves."

Huntington is covered by the Northeast Indiana 2-1-1 call center based in Fort Wayne. In 2008, it was recorded that 535 calls came from Huntington County, compared to 2007 which had 726 calls.