Terri Bolbach recalled the feeling of despair that rushed through her in May when her 17-year-old daughter told her she was pregnant.
The single West Toledo mother was desperate for help. She was unemployed and trying to provide for the daughter and three younger children.
But a counselor at the United Way of Greater Toledo's 2-1-1 system put Ms. Bolbach in contact with caregivers after her daughter decided that she wanted to keep and raise the baby.
"When I found out that she was pregnant, this was the first place I thought to go to get help, and that is exactly what they did,'' she said yesterday.
The United Way 2-1-1 system allows those in need to dial a single number to access services such as workers' compensation, travelers' assistance, and help with substance and alcohol abuse, utility bills, and suicide prevention.
"It can help with any human service problems that someone might face in life. Obviously the toughest ones to overcome in life are the ones you don't expect,'' said Kim Sidwell, a spokesman for the local United Way agency.
Ms. Bolbach met with Anjilina Melendez, a trained information referral specialist, at the United Way offices in the Stranahan Building. In a single meeting, Ms. Bolbach was given helpful resources, including places to go to obtain food, clothing, crib, an infant car seat, prenatal care, and parenting classes.
She said she and her daughter feel they are ready to welcome the addition to their household, a girl, who is due in January.
"I just feel like with United Way 2-1-1 that I have somebody behind me. I feel like I have support. I feel like I am not afraid anymore,'' she said.
Ms. Sidwell said trained referral specialists, such as Ms. Melendez, listen and ask questions to provide information and referral services.
"These tools are giving Terri and her daughter the ability to get through a pregnancy that they didn't plan on facing so soon in life,'' she said.
United Way also helped Ms. Bolbach in getting assistance to pay utility bills and matched the family with a company that donated money so they could buy food for their Thanksgiving dinner.
The 24-hour service is available to residents in Lucas and Ottawa counties. Ms. Sidwell said Wood County, part of the local United Way agency, will unveil 2-1-1 early next year through The Link, a mental health care provider.
However, the easy-to-remember three-digit number is not available to cell phone users, who must use the agency's longer number: 800-650-HELP.
In addition, the 2-1-1 system also matches individuals with volunteer opportunities.
Bill Kitson, president of the local United Way, said he was cautiously optimistic that the organization's $13.34 million goal would be reached when the fund-raising drive ends Dec. 1.
United Way set the goal $1 million above last year's collection.