“You are first responders in people’s lives.”
State leaders join United Way to recognize efforts of Mass211 during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pictured above, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. Photo Credit: Mass211
Earlier this month, state and civic leaders joined United Way at the Mass211 call center to recognize an unprecedented milestone: since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis two years ago, Mass211 has answered over one million pandemic-related calls.
But state leaders had another message that day, a message of appreciation for the Mass211 staff and volunteers who fielded those one million calls. Because behind every one of those calls was a Mass-211 specialist answering the phone, providing information and resources to those dialing in for help.
“Every single one of those calls involved listening and solving for the very specific needs of individuals in a time of great uncertainty, from trying to understand what the virus was doing, where to go for help, to where to go for testing,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, as she recognized the critical role that the hotline played for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts connecting Massachusetts residents to information and resources during the pandemic.
“These were very specific areas of inquiry that required your expertise,” Polito said. “I want to thank all the volunteers who were so willing to take on these calls and work hand in hand, arm in arm with the state. This was an unprecedented effort with United Way, the Department of Public Health, volunteers and the Mass211 team all working together during this extraordinary time and providing a lifeline for the people of the Commonwealth.
“I also want to thank you for your availability to domestic violence survivors. We used the Mass211 service and messaged it quite frequently when the Governor was delivering daily messages. Thank you for being there at a time while we were saying ‘you are safer at home,’ these are individuals were not necessarily safer at home. Thank you for referring them to resources to get support and find their place of safety throughout the pandemic.”
Founded in 2006 and funded by United Ways across Massachusetts, Mass211 is available at no cost to all Commonwealth residents by dialing 2-1-1. Mass211 connects residents across the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities to mental health services, vaccine and testing appointments, rental assistance, childcare, and other services. Mass211 is accessible 24/7 in more than 150 languages.
“You took calls from families who lost childcare, seniors who hadn’t left their homes in months, people who lost jobs, distressed landlords, distressed tenants, frantic business owners and more,” said Eileen Davis, Vice President at Mass211 and Director at Call2Talk. “Through your empathy, compassion, and dedication to others, you answered the calls over and over again, even though sometimes you felt more like the callers themselves. Some days were really hard. Yet you came back day after day, week after week, storm after storm. You are unsung heroes.”
“You are first responders in people’s lives,” said Secretary Mary Lou Sudders of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as she spoke to the Mass211 staff and volunteers. “You offered, throughout the pandemic, compassion, caring and a lifeline to whoever was on the other end. You made sure people were treated with respect and dignity for needs like food insecurity at a time when all of us were facing great uncertainty.”
Last year, United Way organizations across the Commonwealth successfully advocated for $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to expand Mass211 capacity to support staffing, training and equipment needs. Senator Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis sponsored and championed the amendment to secure funding for Mass211. Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Eldridge and Representative Lewis were recognized at the call center event for their support and toured the offices afterward to thank volunteers.
“I know I speak for myself and everyone on our team about how proud we are of the role we played,” said Davis of Mass211. “211 is there when other offices are closed, especially on nights and weekends. This can be an incredible resource to lessen people’s feelings of fears, anxiety and isolation.”
More information is available at mass211.org.