Proclamation issued designating Friday as ‘2-1-1 Day’ in the city

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Feb. 8 2007 - Sulphur Springs Mayor Freddie Taylor on Thursday handed CAN Help officials a proclamation designating Friday as 2-1-1 day in the city, following the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's lead in declaring Feb. 11 as "Texas 2-1-1 Day."

HHSC's declaration was made to honor those who work in the 2-1-1 Texas call centers as well as to educate people about the "free phone call center which connects callers with services in their community that can help improve their quality of life."

Taylor went a step further proclaiming it 2-1-1 Day in Sulphur Springs on Friday in recognition of 2-1-1 Texas Northeast Texas Region, the call center which serves nine counties in the region and is one of the programs offered and coordinated by Hopkins County Community Action Network (which is doing business as CAN Help) at the CAN Help building in Sulphur Springs. 

The mayor's proclamation noted that the purpose of recognizing 2-1-1 day is to "encourage all citizens to support this program in its effort to serve Northeast Texas residents with community information, referral and advocacy."

In honor of the designation, 2-1-1 North East Texas Region will hold a host of activities throughout the day Friday, including an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Can Help building on Church Street. Judges, dignitaries and representatives from organizations and agencies coordinated through the call center, as well as any individual from an agency within the regional area information center, are invited to the open house to "observe how we operate to help those find the help they need," according to Echo Gregory, assistant director/outreach and community development.

"We're dedicating this day to letting 2-1-1 Texas North East Region-area residents know that 2-1-1 is the number to call when they don't know who to call," said Dawn Sheffield, executive director of CAN Help. "When you dial 2-1-1, a trained experts will listen to your needs and provide anonymous referrals to local community resources that can help with everything from food, housing and child care to crisis counseling or substance abuse treatment."

The 2-1-1 Texas line is a free service, which callers can dial 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect to area information centers anywhere in their region. Trained experts can access community-based organizations, government agencies and nonprofits throughout the state, and the service is offered in 90 languages. 

The North East Texas Region serves Bowie, Cass, Lamar, Delta, Franklin, Hopkins, Morris, Red River and Titus Counties, and is one of 25 regional call centers in Texas.

The call center is also a member of the 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Network, an integral part of the Texas Homeland Security strategic plan, taking non-emergency calls during local, state and national disasters to "make the job easier for service providers at nonprofits and community organizations, first response personnel like nurses, counselors and police, and elected officials and leaders" by telling 2-1-1 callers how to get the help they need, Gregory noted. 

They work directly with Sulphur Springs Emergency Operations Coordinator Lt. Rex Morgan during emergency situations. During  Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the local office's lines were opened statewide to assist people and help other area call centers which were flooded. They help coordinate callers find the utility assistance, food, emergency shelters, employment help, medical and mental health assistance and transportation information.

They also have a phone tree system which allows them to program in dozens of phone numbers to provide bulletins at the push of a button during emergency situations.

"2-1-1 also supports the community by assessing and reporting about individual needs, identifying gaps in service and working proactively with agencies and community planners to address the needs of the people of East Texas," Gregory said.

She said that the biggest problems for 2-1-1 and other CAN Help programs is that the public is not aware of the many services they offer, and the need for more advocates to help educate the public about 2-1-1 and Can Help.

The goal of CAN Help is to find a niche for ministries or programs or to help with a need, according to Sheffield.

Other programs overseen by CAN Help include the new program Faith In Action, the ongoing Children In the Middle program, and they are working to reestablish the charitable clinic discontinued a few years ago due to lack of funds.

More information about CAN Help programs, advocacy or making donations can be found on the web site www.canhelponline.org or by calling 903-885-9797.

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