Born Learning, 2-1-1 Great Examples of United Way at Work

January 20, 2009  //  United Way

Do you need information about a community service and don’t know where to turn?

How about help for your preschooler, to make sure they have the tools they’ll need to succeed in school? Help is but a phone call away, thanks to your local United Way.

Dial 2-1-1 and you can access information about community services, human services and critical intervention. Call 402-441-7700 and discover how the Born Learning campaign can create early learning opportunities for young children.

Both services are free. The benefits are priceless.


The 2-1-1 call center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was unveiled July 1, 2004 and provides services such as basic human needs resources, physical and mental health resources, employment support, help for older Americans and persons with disabilities, support for children and families, and provides volunteer opportunities.

“It’s handled 8,413 calls since its inception,” Robin Mahoney McDannel, senior director of fund distribution/community planning for the United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County, reported in mid-December.

“It’s been a slow, gradual growth each year,” she said, noting that the 2008 total was nearing 3,000 at the time of this interview.

Trained staff at the United Way of the Midlands works the phone lines. Interpretation assistance for more than 150 languages is available when you dial 2-1-1. You can also search a comprehensive social services database at


Children are born learning, but parents, grandparents and caregivers can encourage that learning in everyday moments.
The national learning campaign has a Web site – – that offers lots of educational tools, including tips to encourage learning and answers to help care for young children.

“Our target audience is infant to age 6 and their parents, grandparents and caregivers,” says Judy Schmidt, fund distribution manager for the United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County.

Unveiled in 2005, the service attempts to prepare children for school by giving their parents and informal caregivers easy, “doable” action steps to help young children learn.

“Most children from literacy-rich families come to kindergarten with a vocabulary of 8,000 to 10,000 words, whereas some come with only a 300-word vocabulary,” according to Schmidt. The U.S. Department of Education says almost half of America’s kindergarteners enter school unprepared. Low-income children are a year or more behind.

Those statistics underscore the need for Born Learning. “Our mission is to create community change by connecting parents with local resources, providing research-based information, and building on the campaign to make long-term changes to help children come to school ready to succeed.”

Born Learning and 2-1-1 are two great examples of your United Way dollars at work. If you’ve yet to contribute to the current United Way campaign, call the local office at 402-441-7700.

Your contribution will help people in need – and create a more level playing field for all children entering school.