Community service

United Way opens Springfield Community Service Center and highlights 211 crisis hotline

SPRINGFIELD — Friday was declared “211 Day” in Springfield to raise awareness for the crisis hotline.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and other officials and community members gathered to celebrate the service and ceremonially cut the ribbon at the United Way of Pioneer Valley Springfield Service Center. One of its functions will be to act as a satellite hub for Mass211 and the Call2talk program.

“People who call and reach out need help, and often they are in crisis. Now you do this a hundred times with COVID-19, which has exacerbated all the issues and problems,” Sarno said.

“The 211 people on the other line are helping calm that person down,” he continued. “Help lead this person. Help their families and encourage them. You can’t put a price tag on it. So you’re literally not just helping people on the right path sometimes; sometimes you help save their lives. It takes a lot of patience, understanding, knowledge, professionalism and compassion…and we appreciate those efforts so much.

Beacon Auto Group sponsored the launch event. Investors including James E. “Jeb” Balise Jr. recently purchased the building at 1441 Main Street, called the TD Bank Center, for $5.2 million. The other occupants are the regional headquarters of TD Bank and the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council.

Balise Auto chief operating officer Ben Sullivan said the Balise family “invested in this building to keep it local, then donated the space to United Way to open operations, and now this allows us to work a little more closely with them.”

The groundbreaking ceremony marked the second grand opening of a local United Way office in a year, said Jason Newmark, chairman of the United Way of Pioneer Valley board of directors. The Chicopee Cupboard pantry opened last April.

Newmark said the Springfield service center will also host a food pantry as well as financial and other coaching programs. Dress for Success, which provides women with work clothes to wear for job interviews as well as other forms of support, will have a boutique at the center, said Diane Jacobs, volunteer engagement manager.

United Way of Pioneer Valley celebrates its 100th anniversary.

“A century of giving us a hand. Not a handout – that’s a real key point,” Newmark said.

“Today is a wonderful kickoff because we are showing that not only are we going to be here for the long haul, but we are here right now, in our community and for our community every day,” he said. declared.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito joined the celebration virtually from Mass211 headquarters in Framingham.

Polito said 211 has responded to 3 million calls since the service launched in 2006, including 1 million since the pandemic began in 2020. She highlighted the help 211 provides to people experiencing domestic violence. , calling the service a “lifeline” and praising the staff members who take calls.

“The volume of calls since the start of the pandemic was a huge undertaking,” she said. “We knew you were prepared and ready to take on this. Each of these calls implied something very specific for that individual in a time of great uncertainty.

Eileen Davis, vice president of Mass211, also praised the efforts of the operators.

“Your empathy, compassion and dedication to supporting others is indescribable. You did that even when you felt like calling each other sometimes,” Davis said. “Some days were really, really tough. Yet you all came back day after day week after week storm after storm. … You really are the unsung heroes, so today is really about you.