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United Way Blog

UWOC & 211: A Partnership Addressing Community Needs

211 is a cornerstone of community, connecting people across the United States and Canada to vital local services. As part of this national effort, the United Way of Olmsted County (UWOC) plays a crucial role in ensuring that the information within the 211 database is current, comprehensive, and reflective of the services available within our community.

Sonja Sommerfeldt, the Impact Program Coordinator at UWOC, emphasizes the importance of this local coordination. “Our job includes updating 211 with new programs like those of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Rochester,” she said. “This ensures that when residents reach out, they are directed to the most relevant services.” This task is vital, considering the diverse range of inquiries 211 addresses, from housing and food relief to utilities and tax assistance.

In 2023, the 211 network across the U.S. responded to 15.4 million calls, texts, web chats and emails. That’s 42,000 calls a day! This highlights 211's essential role in facilitating access to local, critical services. In Southeast Minnesota alone, 211 community resource specialists responded to 5,000 requests for assistance.

The collaboration between United Way and 211 is particularly significant in Olmsted County, where challenges such as housing insecurity, food scarcity, and financial assistance are prevalent. By maintaining an up-to-date database, United Way ensures that residents are connected with the resources necessary to navigate these issues effectively.

“Our partnership with Greater Twin Cities United Way 211 covers 21 counties, and relies on strong relationships to gather comprehensive information about local services,” Sommerfeldt said. “It's through these partnerships that we can maintain an informed 211 system,” she noted, emphasizing the collaborative effort required to keep the 211 database robust and responsive to community needs.

United Way’s collaboration extends to initiatives like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, where efforts are intensified during tax season to address language barriers and ensure broader accessibility to tax assistance services. “This year, we've enhanced our outreach by supporting organizations like Pamoja Women, Damascus Way, and The Intermix Project. By connecting them with VITA volunteers, we're facilitating vital tax assistance within the community,” Sommerfeldt adds.

The challenges faced by residents in Olmsted County underscore the critical role of the United Way and 211 partnership. This collaboration not only leverages 211's extensive reach but also benefits from UWOC's deep understanding of local needs. Together, they ensure that individuals have access to essential support, reflecting a commitment to addressing community needs through strategic partnerships and innovative solutions.

As 211 continues to serve as a lifeline for those seeking help, its performance in 2023 stands as a testament to its crucial role in the community support ecosystem. By addressing fundamental needs and facilitating connections to services, 211 and its partnership with organizations like UWOC are pivotal in enhancing the well-being of communities across the nation.

If you or someone you know needs help call 2-1-1 or visit If you’d like to help support programs like this, reach out to your local United Way for more information.