211 is Helping Here

It was a cold winter night, and Max* had nowhere to go – the shelter where he’d normally find a warm bed had closed its admissions for the night. Unsure of what to do, Max types three numbers into his phone: 2-1-1. 

Answering on the first ring was Jordan*, a specialist with First Call for Help. Jordan listened to Max’s story and, using his knowledge of the network of resources available to northern Minnesotans, helped Max find a safe place to stay that night. “Thank you,” said Max, “for helping me out of a desperate situation.” 

Max’s story is just one example of the thousands of stories of people who go to First Call for Help, which operates the Itasca area’s 211 crisis hotline, each year. Operating in Itasca County since 1974, First Call is part of the nationwide 211 network, which provides free, confidential crisis assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Families and individuals in crisis or seeking assistance can get help with everything from finding food to job searching to healthcare. Specialists are skilled listeners, and help callers navigate crises and find the best path forward, drawing from the statewide database that provides access to more than 40,000 resources.

On February 11th, United Way of 1000 Lakes, which supports First Call, launched its annual 211 Day campaign. Now through the end of the month, supporters can donate to the 211 Fund by texting LAKES to 26989 or visiting uwlakes.org/#donate, helping ensure that First Call can continue to provide help to those who need it.

“211 is an essential part of our nonprofit network,” says Kimberly Brink Smith, United Way’s executive director. “In many cases, they’re the connection between nonprofits and the clients they serve, and play an important role in making sure we can respond to those who need help most. A gift to the 211 Fund helps sustain this service, for now and generations to come.” 

Do you need help? Those in need of assistance can reach First Call for Help 24/7, 365 days a year by dialing 2-1-1, texting their zip code to 898211 (TXT211), or visiting firstcall211.net and using the chat button.


*Names have been changed.


About 211/First Call for Help
First Call for Help of Itasca County is a private, nonprofit community organization whose mission is to provide free, confidential, and non-judgmental crisis intervention, active listening, and information and referral services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to the residents and agencies of North Central Minnesota. 

First Call for Help is one of three contact centers across the state with a shared database containing more than 40,000 resources. Greater Twin Cities United Way funds and operates the largest call center in the state. For more information on the other 2-1-1 call centers in Minnesota, visit 211unitedway.org.