By Stephanie Sanchez, Senior Director of 211 Colorado
In the 17-plus years since I joined 211 Colorado, the 211 program has grown while remaining steadfast to its mission:
To deliver efficient, confidential, multi-lingual access to the most appropriate sources of health and human services help and information for all Coloradoans through a free community service provided by a statewide collaboration of committed organizations.
211 Colorado operates from four centers with two community liaisons supported by seven nonprofit organizations. In addition, we have border-to-border coverage and the most comprehensive database of community, state, and national services and resources. Since our start in 2002, over 3 million individuals and families have reached out to 211 for help. And that need continues.
211 Colorado is a free service to our communities, but funding is required for its operation. That’s why the of HB22-1315 in May 2022 was critical. This bill provides a public-private partnership to meet the needs of community members in crisis through $1 million in annual funding, to connect individuals and families to the resources they need most, such as food, shelter, rental assistance, childcare, and more.
We all saw the impact COVID had on our communities. Many of our neighbors who have never needed to ask for help suddenly did not know how to meet their basic needs or where to get help. But the COVID pandemic wasn’t the first crisis in which 211 provided emergency community support. 211 Help Centers across Colorado have supported families coming to our state, from the arrival of Hurricane Katrina survivors to refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. 211 has supported those impacted by the 2008 Windsor tornado, the 2013 floods, and the numerous wildfires our state has experienced, including the most recent and devastating Marshall Fire.
In addition to these large-scale disasters, many of our neighbors, friends, and family experience personal crises daily. Coloradans face eviction, struggle to keep food on the table or pay the utility bill, provide care for an aging parent, manage a critical illness, or are unable to work. Through it all, 211 Community Navigators provide resources, assistance, and hope to callers navigating difficult circumstances. That’s the beauty of 211; with one call, chat, or text, you can reach a 211 Specialist who can help you locate the best and closest resource to support your unique situation. Coloradans can also visit 211Colorado.org to look for resources on their own.
We have all had a friend or family member reach out and say, “I need help. Do you know of an agency or organization that can help?” And we can all say, “Yes, contact 211. They can help you connect to the resources and services that can help you.”
About Stephanie Sanchez
Stephanie serves as the 211 Statewide Senior Director at Mile High United Way in Denver, Colorado. At the state level, in coordination with the four regional 211 contact centers, she creates and leads the 211 statewide strategic direction, with a focus on building statewide partnerships and enhancing the statewide program. At the local level, she provides strategic and program management direction of the Mile High United Way 211 Help Center. She also leads our 211 work in the Social Determinants of Health arena.
Stephanie has extensive experience in the development, execution and achievement of strategic business direction and mission. Prior to joining Mile High United Way, her career included over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business (Bell Labs, AT&T, Lucent, Avaya) dealing specifically with customers outside of the United States. For the majority of those years, she led teams around the world in various roles of global operational responsibility.