Facing a table full of middle school students

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While initially a bit intimidated to greet a table full of middle schoolers, I was less than 3 minutes in to ”Hey,…how’s it going…I work for United Way and we…" when I found myself singing the praises of our 2-1-1 Asheville Call Center and asking the students if they had heard of this incredible, free information and referral service. To my surprise, only one student was familiar with 2-1-1. Which, if you know anything at all about 2-1-1, is not a situation that can be left unaddressed.

Let's do a real life demonstration

After I explained the basics of what 2-1-1 does and how awesome our team is, I decided the best way to prove this to them was to do a live demonstration; making a call to 2-1-1 and presenting a hypothetical need. I invited one of the girls to make the call and before I reached the end of my sentence, we could hear the sound of ringing coming from her phone. She got a little nervous, so I jumped in and played the role of the caller.

I let the Information and Referral specialist that answered (in about 7 seconds) know that I had “hurt my knee, had no insurance, and needed medical attention or I would have to stop working.” She quickly provided comprehensive information on an ABCCM walk-in clinic in my area and asked if I needed any other assistance. After the call ended, the girls were all amazed that this service actually exists (and it was not some corny, middle aged prank). 

I snapped a few photos and then decided I should let them return to their meal in peace. These kids were awesome – spunky, engaging, clearly supportive of each other.  Now they know of one more place to get help when they need it most.


Lance Edwards is United Way's Vice President of Planning and Community Investment. On May 12, Lance joined a host of fellow staff members, volunteers and community partners at our first annual End of Year Block Party at Erwin Middle School. Families, community members, staff and faculty were invited to enjoy a free meal, games and get information from local nonprofits and service providers. More than 300 people attended the event at Erwin and the week before more than 450 came out at the Enka Block Party. These events are just one of the ways we are working with community partners and schools to engage and support local families.


Check out photos from the Erwin Block Party

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