Valerie Windom is one of more than 40 highly trained volunteers and staff who help operate 2-1-1, United Way’s free 24-hour information, referral and crisis helpline, which last year served more than 163,500 Central Floridians in need. 2-1-1 truly could not operate as effectively without great volunteers like Valerie, who shares her experiences below:
What do you wish other people knew about Heart of Florida United Way 2-1-1? I wish people knew that there are so many resources available to help people. Before volunteering with 2-1-1, I had never heard of the service. The 211 call specialists are so knowledgeable and can help with almost any type of need. And the program does so much. Beyond answering incoming calls, 2-1-1 call specialists follow-up with families with a phone call to see how they are doing.
In your opinion what does it take to be an effective 2-1-1 volunteer? You definitely need be knowledgeable about all of the resources that are available, but you also need a desire to help people.
What surprised you the most about volunteering for 2-1-1? I have enjoyed this more than anything I have ever done before. Being able to point people in the right direction and connecting them to resources that can help them is truly a rewarding experience. You get to make a real difference in someone’s life. I also expected the atmosphere in the call center to be stressful, but it’s not. It’s so calm and everyone is so helpful.
Is there a particular person or family that comes to mind when you think of all the people that you have helped? I can’t really single out any particular family, but anytime I can help a child, it always moves me. Prior to volunteering for 2-1-1, I was a foster parent for eight years. Helping children is something I truly love.
What are your plans for the future? I enjoy working for 2-1-1 and hope to volunteer here for a very long time.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not volunteering? I like to read and make jewelry and greeting cards. It really relaxes me.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering for 2-1-1? Go for it! It’s a very rewarding experience to reach out to people and make a difference in their lives.