In 2023, hundreds of thousands of Americans reached out to Mass211 seeking assistance with childcare, financial payments, utility payments, emergency shelter, food security, winter storm damage, and mental health and suicide prevention services. Their housing line addressed over 50,000 calls from individuals at risk of eviction, and their childcare line helped over 45,000 families return to work.
Mass211's team has provided consistent support to the community but not without first staring down their own challenges. Reflecting on the past four years, Vice President Eileen Davis commends the center's Information and Referral (I&R) Specialists who embodied Mass211's mission even amidst personal hurdles. In 2020, facing the overwhelming public needs, the Governor's Office, Department of Public Health, and Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) enlisted Mass211 to manage the Commonwealth's COVID-19 Information line. This new role saw the Mass211 team handling an increased volume of calls in search of current and accurate information. "That period was unprecedented, yet it underscored our dedication to our mission," Eileen says.
During that time, Mass211 answered over 1 million calls, with staff taking the risk to work in person—a courage recognized by MEMA Director Dawn Brantley. She acknowledges Mass211's critical role in supporting emergency response, disaster recovery, and humanitarian missions, saying, “Mass211 is a critical resource for Massachusetts residents, providing essential and accessible information and nonemergency assistance before, during, and after emergency or disaster events. I am thankful for all those who have contributed to making this service invaluable for the Commonwealth's residents.”
As heroic as its dedication to service is, the Mass211 team is defined by its compassion. Call Center Supervisor Regina's story teaches us that service delivery is a balancing act of competence and empathy. Facing the pandemic's challenges, such as disruptions to family care and financial stability, she discovered that her experiences mirrored those of many callers. Regina's return to work after the pandemic brought a deep connection between her personal challenges and those of the callers. "Little did I realize that once I got back on the lines, I'd be inundated with sad stories of other mothers and parents like me who had been struggling for months. My life had begun to improve, with my son in trusted care and my return to a new normal, but those we spoke to were in worse situations," Regina shares. This realization prompted her to offer not just practical assistance but an understanding ear.
The shift from hearing these stories to participating in them marked a turning point for Regina and her colleagues. "The everyday stories became overwhelming. However, an incredible transformation began to take shape. Just when it seemed we might be overwhelmed, the dynamic changed. We united as a team, recognizing our collective power to instill hope in our callers," Regina recounts. This shift from despair to empowerment illustrates Mass211's impact on both callers and staff. "Reflecting on those times, I am continuously honored to provide a pathway of hope to our Mass211 callers," she adds.
These are the lessons carried into 2023. Mass211 continues to address a range of issues affecting those struggling with the losses incurred over the last four years, including job loss, financial decline, relationship breakdowns, wellbeing deterioration, and loss of life. Their 988 Center, Call2Talk, received over 123,000 calls from individuals coping with daily life concerns and the state of the world. The trial of the pandemic has demonstrated Mass211's capability to adapt and meet community needs under any circumstance. "The pandemic tested our endurance and resilience," states Eileen Davis, Vice President of Mass211. "It has shown us that, no matter the challenge, we are ready to provide the guidance, assistance, and support those in need seek from us." And that is exactly what Eileen and her team will continue to do.
If you or anyone you know needs help, there’s a 211 team in your area standing by.