Eighth annual Team One Toyota golf tournament benefits United Way 2-1-1 First Call for Help

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A participant from a previous golf tournament supports United Way’s 2-1-1 First Call for Help. Photo courtesy of Della Barber/United Way.

By Katie Bohannon, News Editor

United Way of Etowah County will host its eighth annual golf tournament on June 11, with sponsors flocking to Silver Lakes Golf Course to support a vital resource in the community.

The Team One Toyota fundraiser benefits United Way’s 2-1-1 First Call for Help, an invaluable and unceasing spring of assistance for all who dial those three numbers.

2-1-1 Director Lishala Carter describes 2-1-1 as akin to 9-1-1, just for nonemergent needs. While someone required emergent assistance dials 9-1-1 for his or her first line of defense, 2-1-1 provides people direction regarding obstacles that arise in everyday life. For individuals who are uncertain how to address certain circumstances or need help navigating challenging situations, 2-1-1 emerges as their compass.

Compassionate and trustworthy specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week (with the local center operating five days a week, eight hours a day) to answer all calls. Rather than muddle through numerous agencies and help-lines, 2-1-1 provides clarity to any confusion, connecting people with the right source appropriate for their needs.

Carter shared that 2-1-1 aids the community with a vast array of services, from prescription assistance to ensuring transportation and bus tickets with a care fund, to helping new parents find the best childcare. While 2-1-1 fulfills urgent needs such as utility, food, transportation and healthcare provisions, one of the most recent connections 2-1-1 provides is with AARP, registering senior citizens directly for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“2-1-1 is a wealth of knowledge, especially in our community,” said Carter. “You go to this one area – one building with many doors. You get all the resources you need in one call and you don’t have to do a lot of running around.”

Carter emphasized that 2-1-1 serves as a conduit for the community, advocating for its residents to ensure they receive an immediate response to their situation. She noted that sometimes, people are not comfortable calling directly for services, or they do not have reliable transportation to visit organizations themselves. Through 2-1-1’s resolute partnerships, specialists are qualified to make direct referrals for callers, availing any stress a consumer might experience and standing in the gap for others.

Carter herself grew up in Etowah County, attending Litchfield High School and returning to Gadsden with her family. Originally a volunteer with 2-1-1 through Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) under the leadership of former director Ruth Moffatt, a fellow member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Carter first served as an administrative assistant at United Way. When Moffatt succeeded Joanne Hightower as United Way’s Executive Director, Carter found herself stepping into seasoned shoes.

“[Moffatt], who sat in my seat and made my seat really big, was the person who everyone knew as the 2-1-1 lady,” said Carter. “She set a really good beating path for 2-1-1, and as the new director serving under her leadership, I would like 2-1-1 to remain a beacon of hope and light for everybody – not just those who need services, but for businesses also to know that we want to list you as a resource. I want to continue doing market assessments to see what those emergent needs are, and continue to support agencies that already offer those services. We do not seek to reinvent the wheel, we just want to have a stronger wheel in place for those needs when they do arise.”

More than 9,000 calls each year reach United Way’s 2-1-1 lines, spanning over Etowah, Calhoun, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph and Talladega counties. Its COVID-19 response alone in the past year supported over 108 families, generating more than $36,000 of funding.

“Going home at the end of the day, knowing that we’ve been able to help individuals either directly or indirectly is what I enjoy most about 2-1-1,” said Carter. “Just that satisfaction in knowing that being here makes a difference in the life of someone.”

That generous and empathetic nature that fuels 2-1-1’s mission resonates with the golf tournament, which arose almost a decade ago with the sole purpose of uniting the community in a beneficial effort to provide for others. Carter expressed her immense gratitude to the golf committee and the fundraiser’s sponsors, whose collaborative passion made the event possible. Larry Peppers, Tripp Collins, Summer Overstreet Jones, Mike Hilton, Catherine Martin and one of the tournament’s prime coordinators, Della Barber, were instrumental in organizing the event.

“Sponsors believe in 2-1-1,” said Carter. “When you see community sponsors and partnerships, somewhere along the line they’ve had to call us [for someone who needed assistance] and we’ve been able to assist. Having these consistent community partners lets us know that they appreciate and value us being in our community. Thanks to our current sponsors and with the diversity of our committee, we’ve been able to get people who previously weren’t sponsors. That means a lot, which gives us room for growth. I think it’s good we’re seeing new community sponsors participate and the local community can see these advocates and community leaders be a part of something so important.”

The tournament features a 4-man scramble format, with a shotgun start for women and men contenders on all teams. Longest drive, “closest to the keg” winnings along with door prizes and raffle items from local businesses and vendors comprise the event. While the tournament will serve as a relaxing, enjoyable day for friends to gather, their participation dually emerges as something greater – a contribution to a cause rooted in bettering its community, one act of service, one kind word and one phone call at a time.

“One thing we always say at 2-1-1, is we always take our callings from ‘hello’ to ‘help,’” said Carter. “Within that same call, we want to be able to say hello and greet them warm and fuzzy, and calm fear, and end the call with giving them the help they need to live a better day tomorrow.”

“Considering 2020 was a really hard year, I’m hoping this [golf tournament] is an opportunity to regain some pride in community and togetherness, while of course maintaining safety. I think this is a great opportunity for businesses, families and participants to come together. Even if you’re not golfer, I’m encouraging you to come and stop by! We’ll have a lot of great things going on. I’m hoping it will instill a sense of community and pride and us being together again.”

The tournament committee is still accepting sponsorships and contributions that range from tournament golf cart sponsors, raffle and door prizes, to hole-in-one and tee sponsors. For more information on sponsoring the tournament, contact Della Barber at 256-390-3908 or della@dbbarber.com or Lishala Carter at 256-546-4357 or callhelp@uqoec.org.

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