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Mercer said she found out about the program from her job, since Publix is a regular supporter of the United Way. "I've always donated part of my pay check to the United Way, nothing huge but small donations here and there, so I was fortunate to know about the program and be able to turn to them when we needed help," she said.

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The ability to connect with several nonprofits via a single phone call helps those that use the program the most, Egan said, as many residents in need are not able to travel across the county from one building to another.

The program started in 1997 in Atlanta, and Egan said that for the past 12 years the United Way has lobbied to make the number become the official line for help in the metro Atlanta area.

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shelters and food pantries, though it would sometimes be varied in order," Egan said. "But in September, it really kind of changed. We were still seeing a need for help with rent, bills and food pantries, but many calls were coming in for assistance with agency information, as many people needed flood relief and just didn't know who to turn to. We have also had several calls from people needing assistance with job placement."

One Cobb resident who used the call center this year is Tonya Mercer of Acworth. The mother of four, who works as a customer service representative at Publix, said that she called the hot line for Nike Crew Shorts Womens

Help is literally right at your fingertips.

Egan said that almost 24,000 calls were placed to the 2 1 1 call center from Cobb residents in 2008. Cobb is one of 13 counties served with the database.

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2 1 1 Public assistance at your fingertips

"It was already past due, and my husband had taken a 10 percent pay cut from his construction job, so having this paid for us was such a blessing and helped us a lot," Mercer said. "Because we weren't back tracked, we were able to start saving money and were able to make sure the next one would be paid and on time."

Egan said she expects more people like Mercer to use the program in 2010 since 2009's preliminary numbers already show a growth from those of 2008.

then driving to another after they've been directed where to go," Egan said.

"This is probably the best kept secret in Cobb County, and it shouldn't be," Megan Egan, the area director for the Cobb County United Way, said. "We want to get the word out, because we are here to assist people and point them in the right directions, if they just let us know. But many people who need Nike Tech Fleece Jogger Pants our help aren't sure where to turn to, or that this program is offered."

Once needs are determined, the United Way can then help with financial assistance for bills, food and shelter.

"Up until August, the top five needs in Cobb were help with electric bill, gas bill, rent, community Nike Sweatpants For Men

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assistance with her electric bill in June when it became apparent the more than $100 bill would be difficult to pay.

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The United Way has a one stop hot line at 2 1 1 that connects people in need with those who can help, but many people are unaware the service even exists.

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Nike Tech Fleece Jogger Pants

"From January to December 15, we had almost 22,400 calls in Cobb, which really shows that we're starting to connect with more and more people," Egan said. "And any non profit we work with or recommend, we do so because we feel comfortable with them and know that they will do a good job. We just hope, especially after the floods and the dire economic situations some people are facing, that they will know there is a place to turn to for help."

"One of the things that can make receiving assistance difficult, especially in Cobb, is transportation. Many of these people don't have a car, and if they do, they have one serving a whole family so if someone takes their car to work, they are stranded at their homes. 2 1 1 allows these people to get assistance and referrals, if needed, without having to leave their homes. This cuts out on having to drive to one agency, Nike T Shirt Green

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"When you dial 2 1 1, it connects you with an agent who will first get your demographic information, such as your zip code and cross streets. This is helpful when evaluating the needs of a community because you can see if there are certain areas that have a greater need than others," Egan said.

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