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West Michigan United Way Answering Flint 211 Calls

 To help handle the flood of Flint residents dialing 211, Heart of West Michigan United Way, out of Grand Rapids, is setting aside staf to take those calls. Sherri Vainavicc is 211 Program Manager at United Way.

“What we did is we had a couple of our staff trained in what is occurring in Flint, become familiar with the situation and the resources that are available.”   

But just because the calls are answered in West Michigan, doesn’t mean Flint residents should expect a difference in service, Vainavicc says.

It’s a seamless operation when you call into the system. It says, if you’re calling regarding the water crisis, press 1’ and then the calls are sent to the next available agent. And as far as you know, somebody that’s sitting in Flint is answering the call.”

What callers can expect is a list of local resources like where the nearest fire station or health department, also United Way Genesee is offering transportation for those who need it. Other resources:

“They can get fresh drinking water, the filters to get on their faucets, as well as the test kit.“

Heart of West Michigan is also issuing a call for those interested in volunteering or giving toward the Flint crisis

“In our local United Way here in Kent County, we want to be good neighbors and we want to help the residents of Flint out as much as we can, because you never know when a crisis in our community could happen.”

That number, to learn how you can help, is easy to remember, it’s 211.

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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