By Travis Gulbrandson
The Vermillion City Council briefly discussed lending its support to a United Way program during its regular special meeting last week.
The program – 211 – provides a link between individuals and community resources.
“If somebody is uncertain as to who might provide them service or they’re trying to figure out who they should call, 2-1-1 is a national number that they can dial if it’s activated through their city or county,” said City Manager John Prescott. “In this case, the calls would go to Sioux Falls, where they are based.”
From the Sioux Falls Helpline Center, interested persons can access information about disaster situations, shelters, donation needs and volunteer needs, among other areas.
According to the official United Way Web site, the 211 program is currently available in 80 percent of the country.
Council member Kelsey Collier-Wise – who also serves as executive director of the United Way in Vermillion – said that while 211 is a national program, it gets adopted and funded by different areas and organizations.
“The main funder in Sioux Falls is the United Way. Nationally, 2-1-1 is generally considered a project of the United Way,” she said.
Reps from the Sioux Falls United Way visited the area in May with an eye toward expanding the program to Clay, Yankton and possibly Bon Homme counties, said Prescott, who was among the local officials with whom they met about potential funding.
Council member John Grayson confirmed the expansion, saying, “I know Helpline Center, a nonprofit organization, is seeking to become a statewide organization, not just a center in the Sioux Empire. They have plans and are soliciting funding in the Rapid City area to grow in that part of the state, as well. They’re on a growth trajectory.”
Collier-Wise said the United Way of Vermillion also was approached.
“Obviously, the Sioux Empire United Way raise about $9 million a year, and we raise about $110,000,” she said. “We were not able to give them the amount that they were looking for, especially since it’s not a program that’s started yet.”
It was difficult without the city and county being on board, she said.
“We did allocate a very small amount of about $400 … with the idea that if they did get established we would fund more in the future,” Collier-Wise said. “But we just don’t have the ability because of our small budget to give very much.
“I would guess that if this would go forward that United Way funding would increase for it, probably,” she said.
Collier-Wise said she believes the United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton made a similar allocation.
Grayson spoke in favor of the city council taking similar action.
“I think it’s a good program. It’s a valuable program,” he said. “I think it’s certainly worthy of our consideration to provide some support for it.”
No official motions were made regarding the program.
For more information about the 211 program in South Dakota, visit http://helplinecenter.org/2-1-1-community-resources/.