A local social service provider encourages residents who need services but don’t know where to get them to call 211 — a nationwide hotline staffed 24/7 that can connect people with a multitude of agencies.

Gary Drapek, executive director of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, said the hotline assists residents with virtually any need, including finding food, housing, health care and transportation, and in applying for financial assistance, such as food stamps and help with utility bills, rent and mortgage payments.

Drapek said the service is especially important now as the need for services grows because of the devastating financial and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The hotline also plays an important role in dispelling rumors and inaccurate information about the pandemic.

“There is nothing more important at this stage of the game than having correct information,” Drapek said. “You need a central location that has the correct information, No. 1, to quell the hysteria and fear, and two, to point people in the right direction when they need services.”

United Way organizations throughout the nation largely fund the hotline.

In Pennsylvania’s northeast region, the Family Service Association of NEPA, which covers Bradford, Clinton, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming counties, operates the hotline.

The 211 referral service includes:

  • Basic human needs, including food and clothing, shelters, housing and utility assistance and child care.
  • Mental health, including counseling, support groups, drug and alcohol treatment and health insurance programs.
  • Employment, including job training, transportation assistance and education programs.
  • Older adults and disabled people, including adult day care, community meals and home health care.
  • Tax preparation assistance.

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9137