NC 211 and Buncombe County a Decades Long Evolution and History

211 team in black and white


It may be 10 pm when someone, desperate to end their substance misuse, dials 2-1-1 to find help. 

Or 6 pm when a parent calls to find tutoring support for their child. 

Or 7 am when a house fire occurs and an elderly woman begins searching for a safe place to stay. 


No matter the time, no matter where they live, NC 211 is there to help connect people to the resources they need. 


As United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County marks its Centennial anniversary, we’ve been taking a look at key moments and partnerships in our history and the evolution of NC 211 is one worth sharing. 

In the early 1970s, the Junior League of Asheville formed a volunteer services bureau and a 24-hour Information and Referral helpline with support from our United Way. By 1978, these two services were folded into our day-to-day operations and centered as important tools that connect people to ways to give, and find, help. 

A service that relied at first on a Rolodex of handwritten numbers soon became a reference book that every local service provider kept at their side. In the early 1990s, we set up mobile information sites throughout the community. In 2000 we worked alongside other NC United Ways to petition the NC Utilities Commission to designate 2-1-1 as a dedicated statewide Information and Referral number. And in 2008 after successful advocacy efforts with cellular carriers, former Buncombe County Commissioner, Nathan Ramsey, made a ceremonial first cell phone call to NC 211 at a press conference in our boardroom. 

We formally joined forces with United Way of North Carolina (UWNC) in 2001, and eventually became the call center for our western counties. Today, we are proud to not only assist callers in WNC but also meet the large call volume that has emerged due to the economic impact of COVID-19. 

What makes NC 211 special is that we are built on a legacy of continuous improvement. It is special because we know that our staff meets every caller with an open heart, a compassionate ear, and an incredible amount of skill. And it is special because it is powered by local and statewide partnerships and it is powered by you, our donors.