211 Big Bend helps community in crisis

Housing, food, health top three needs
Posted at 11:54 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 18:56:12-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Housing, food and good health are the top three needs one organization is working to address in the Big Bend.

211 Big Bend has seen a dramatic increase in calls for help since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It certainly feels good to help someone and hear someone say you’ve really helped me today,” shared Stephen Sardelis.

Sardelis is a hotline supervisor at 211 Big Bend. Just like you would call 911 for emergencies, you can call 211 for help with things like food or shelter.

“The last year has been hectic,” Sardelis explained. He said since March of 2020, they’ve seen a 50 percent increase in calls.

“A lot of these problems were already there; COVID has just exacerbated it,” Sardelis added.

The outreach and education coordinator at 211, Paulina Lewis said, “domestic violence, homelessness, suicide, homicide,” are some of those issues in our community that people call about. She said there is always a need for volunteers with 211.

Those volunteers answer calls for help from people like Kimberly Jones.

“I was homeless for a while,” Jones shared. “It was really hard for me to find places to eat.”

Kimberly Jones

She explained she found the food pantry put on by Good News Outreach in Tallahassee through 211.

Throughout most of the pandemic, the cubicles at the 211 office have been pretty much empty. They have counselors answering calls remotely to keep everyone safe.

“Personally, I think more people getting vaccinated is going to help,” Sardelis said.

He and his team are fielding more and more calls from people asking where and how they can get the COVID vaccine.

“People can call us and ask for Lyft ride united program,” Sardelis added. Through that program, people can get a ride to a vaccine site if they meet the criteria.

As the calls keep coming, they’re looking to add to their team with about 30 more volunteers.

“The most important quality that we’re looking for is people who are reliable,” Lewis said.

You do not have to be in crisis to call 211. There is no eligibility criteria. Services are free.