by Chiara Cameron
I have been the director of 2-1-1 here in Utah for almost three years. I’ve spent so much of that time with my head in the details of 2-1-1 that I could recite them to you by heart: how many calls we get (87,994), how many services we keep track of (9,780) and even what percentage of callers have less than a high school degree (56%) or were calling about utility payment assistance (15%).
As much as I use those details to talk to people about how much we do, it isn’t really WHAT we do. To me, it’s all about empowerment. Information in the hands of people who know what to do with it is very powerful. Every call, text, chat, or email is so much more than a number; they are people who are very real and in very real need.
This week marks the 11th anniversary of my husband’s death. That moment left me with shattered pieces of a life I had intended to have, and was suddenly left with a new life that I couldn’t escape and was completely unrecognizable. I had four young children (ages 10, 5, 3, and 1). I needed to provide for them. I needed to go back to school. I needed to be a present parent. And yet, in the midst of all of that, there was possibility and opportunity.
I used the very programs we refer to in order to stabilize my family while I attended school (ultimately getting both a bachelors and master’s degree) and started pursuing a career in nonprofit by taking small part time and volunteer jobs. I now have an amazing job I love, and I am able to provide for my family comfortably. And I was able to be present with my kids when they needed me most.
I love 2-1-1. Not just because I’m the director, but because I really believe what we do every day matters, regardless of how much we do it.
And because I will always believe in the power
of information to change lives. It changed mine.