United Way celebrates 15 years since starting their 211 hotline number

Winston and Nigel Venture died in their Highland Park home this weekend. No power.  

"I was on TV last night and it hurt my heart so bad that these two guys were found dead in her house in Highland Park. They had a makeshift generator and they died from carbon monoxide," said Annie Perry.

While loved ones mourn their death, Perry in Detroit watched it on TV and is giving thanks that her power is on after fearing she would lose it.  

"I had a shut-off notice from DTE and they gave me a certain amount of time before shutoff. And I was frantic and I didn't know what to do. That's when I called," she said.

Like many low-income people across metro Detroit, Perry is grateful for 2-1-1. The phone bank run by the United Way allows people on the brink of losing the basics to get their power back. But it's not just electricity.  

"Our database houses over 30,000 resources that range from rental assistance, health care assistance, helping people find food and adequate food as well as utility assistance," said Christopher Taylor with United Way.

This week, they're celebrating 15 years of the hotline number being created. They're letting everyone know if the power is about to go out or food is running short, or medical bills are piling up - there's help three digits away: 2-1-1. 

"They helped with the utilities, that's all I was calling for. And I'm hoping that when I call back with other needs they will be as good as the help has been and still is," Perry said.

The help is available 24 hours a day. The relationships they build are bigger than just a hand up.  

"We've been able to form this great relationship with her so whenever she is in need of anything, not only myself but there are additional team members that reach out to her on a regular basis just to follow up and see if there's anything that she is in need of," Taylor said.

A need that is bigger than just convenience and comfort.  It's bigger than that as we sadly are reminded of from the incident in Highland Park. 

"That generator caused - unfortunately those individuals had to lose their lives trying to make ends meet and trying to figure out a way to keep the lights and gas on to stay warm," said Taylor.

"It's really about sustaining life," he added.

If you need assistance, text HOPE to 50503 or call 211.