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3 profile photos of Central Minnesotans that reached out to 211

We’re all just one unexpected emergency, delayed paycheck, or natural disaster away from hardship. In fact, thousands of Central Minnesotans face life-altering obstacles like homelessness, hunger, and financial instability every day. 

211 is the number to call or text when you don’t know where to turn. This 24/7, free, confidential helpline connects community members to the most comprehensive database of local social services. 

Every 2.3 minutes, a Minnesotan reaches out to 211 seeking help for themselves or a friend in need. Here are three of their stories. 


Jackson is a 23-year-old pre-medical student at St. Cloud State University. After losing hisJackson, a UWCM community member mom to multiple sclerosis five years ago, Jackson decided to become a neurologist. He wanted to dedicate his life to finding a cure for this horrible, degenerative disease. 

Thanks to Jackson’s full-ride scholarship and near-perfect GPA, he didn’t have to worry about student debt and tuition. On the other hand, rent, grocery, and utility bills always weighed heavy on his mind. 

On top of a full school load, Jackson worked as a part-time barista. When he wasn’t studying, he was behind the coffee bar trying to make ends meet. That’s why Jackson felt defeated when he found himself three weeks behind on rent. He would be evicted if he couldn’t come up with the money by the end of the week, but payday wasn’t for two more weeks. To make matters worse, final exams were right around the corner. 


Jackson felt hopeless. He didn’t have family or friends to turn to for help. On his walk to class, Jackson passed a flyer for a free and confidential helpline. That’s when he called 211. 

A trained community specialist answered the phone and asked Jackson a few questions to uncover the help he needed. The operator provided him with referrals for local rent, food, and utility assistance programs. Within mere minutes, Jackson connected with an organization that offered emergency support for his overdue bills. 

In a follow-up call, 211 connected Jackson with a nonprofit credit counselor. Now, with financial knowledge and budgeting skills, he doesn’t have to worry about another overdue bill again.


Maria is a single mom in Sauk Rapids. She immigrated from Guatemala to the United States atSingle mother Maria with daughter age 25 and has never gone a day without a job. For the past few years, Maria worked as a line cook at a local fast-food restaurant. She hated the night shift, but there was nothing she wouldn’t do for her daughter. Working nights allowed Maria to cook her daughter breakfast and send her to school. It was her favorite part of the day.

Maria walked into work one day to find a new manager on the floor. He informed her that Maria would also have to pick up shifts during the day due to a lack of employees. She tried telling the manager she was already working 40+ hours a week, but he cut her off. “Stay for the day shift, or you’re fired,” the manager told her. 

If Maria had to work during the day, she wouldn’t be able to feed her daughter breakfast and send her off to school. She needed the job, but her daughter depended on Maria to be there when she woke up. She couldn’t bear the thought of missing that precious time with her child.


Maria called her sister, Isabel, asking for advice about what to do. Isabel mentioned that she had recently reached the 211 Helpline for legal support with her immigration status. Her sister then told Maria that 211 also offered employment services. Maria was relieved to learn that she could seek help via text message; she knew she would be too shy to call. That’s when she texted 211. 

The 211 operator replied in Spanish, asking follow-up questions about Maria’s long-term employment goals. She told 211 about her dreams of becoming a restaurant manager but worried her English was not good enough.

By the end of Maria’s break, she had scheduled a meeting with the local nonprofit job training center. The 211 operator even sent Maria the link to sign up for a free education program offering online English classes. She finished her shift with a plan in place. 


Albert is a 75-year-old Veteran living in St. Cloud. After losing his wife last month, Albert hadAlbert, a man and his daughter Molly little desire to leave his apartment. His days consisted of sitting in the recliner, sleeping, and drinking too much. He hadn’t eaten a meal in three days. Albert didn’t even have the energy to shower, let alone go to the grocery store or cook. 

Molly, Albert’s daughter, came over one day to visit her dad. She was worried about him; he wasn’t answering her phone calls or texts. When she walked through the door, she stopped in her tracks. It was worse than she imagined. The frail man in front of her could not have been the same cheerful father that raised her. 

Molly cleaned the apartment, washed her dad’s clothes, and filled his fridge. She had to leave for her shift at the local hospital, so Molly encouraged her dad to shower as she ran out the door. 


With a full-time job and family across town, Molly didn’t have the time, money, or resources to check in on Albert constantly. She spent her entire shift stressed about what to do. Molly remembered hearing about a helpline that offered support for seniors and whipped out her phone. That’s when she called 211. 

“I’m not calling for myself,” Molly told the 211 operator. “My dad needs help, and I don’t know where to turn.” The 211 operator consoled Molly while asking questions about her recent visit to Albert’s apartment. 211 connected Molly to a local assistance program that offered senior support services, including: 

  • Home health aides
  • Meal delivery
  • Help with household chores
  • Counseling 

Molly took a deep sigh of relief. 

Two days later, Albert started counseling to work through the loss of his wife. Now, his home health aide helps clean the apartment, drives Albert to appointments, and cooks his favorite meals for dinner. 


Every year on February 11th (2/11), United Way of Central Minnesota celebrates 211 and drives support for this critical asset and its meaningful support to our community. For this year’s 211 Day, we invite you to join us in celebrating the individuals behind the life-enhancing services of Central Minnesota’s 211 call centers. 

“211 exemplifies United Way’s fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community,” says Sam Switzer, UWCM’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “By donating to United Way, you can support 211 and ensure it continues to be a vital service in Central Minnesota.” 

Raise your hand for 211 and support United Way's mission to improve the lives of our community members like Jackson, Maria, and Albert. 

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Published on Feb 8, 2023 7:45:00 AM

Topics: 211