Helpline Gets Grant Money to Redesign Website

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WILKES-BARRE -- An organization specializing in helping others is finally getting a little help of its own. The place known as "Helpline" is getting grant money to help update its website in an effort to reach more people.

Officials with the 2-1-1 Helpline say it is no secret that the current website is "a bit clunky" for users to navigate, but now with an influx of $25,000 from a private grant, they hope that will be changed shortly.

The Helpline is a hotline run by the Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, providing information and assistance for anything from help paying a water bill to suicide prevention -- all anyone has to do is dial 2-1-1.

"In total, we're looking at probably about 100,000 calls this year. Last year, we had about 98,000, I think it was a little over 98,000," said Michael Zimmerman, of the Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The grant -- which came from the AllOne Foundation in Wilkes-Barre -- is currently planned to be used to modernize the current website, helping it become more friendly to users on all platforms.

"So, what that will do will make it much more consumer friendly," added Zimmerman. "It will be icon driven, which is important because if you go in now you have to keywords, and keywords aren't always the best search option."

Besides calling and getting online, the Helpline also offers users the option to text them at "T E X T 2 1 1" for assistance. Officials think that that service will only grow in popularity with time.

"If you look at your phone bill every month, you probably have more texting on there than you have phone calls," said Tom Foley, the Helpline's Services Director. "That's a national average, that more people use their phone for texting than they do for phone calls."'

The Helpline hopes that by making their online outreach more user friendly, they will be able to help more people all across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

"Well everybody needs helps every once in a while in their life, no matter what the problem could be," said Joe Kearney of Wilkes-Barre. "Even if it's just temporary to get them back on their feet."

That website should be updated within the year. For those interested in visiting the PA 2-1-1 Helpline website, they can click here.