The 211 call center has been busy in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Operators are fielding calls from people in town and from those in need of assistance many miles away.
The North Texas Area United Way got the call to be prepared for calls before the storm made landfall on Friday. Since Sunday, many across the state have been able to get the help they need from the local group with one simple phone call.
Felicia Stoeltje has been talking to hundreds of people. Many of them in need of food, shelter, or even a rescue from hundreds of miles away.
“This is the first major disaster that I have ever had to cover,” Storltje said. “It’s tough.”
She’s one of five people at the 211 call center in downtown Wichita Falls.
“It’s just been very heartbreaking to hear the stories,” Stoeltje said.
211 director Patricia Daughtery says it’s been all hands on deck since Sunday morning.
“We’ve been probably working 12 hour days since. Sometimes 13 hours days since then to help cover the calls,” Daughtery said.
The local team continues fielding phone calls from near and far. Picking up calls from the Houston area, all the way down to the Corpus Christi coast.
“On a normal basis, we only take about anywhere from 100 to 200 calls a day locally. Daughtery said. “We’ve been up to almost 400 to 500 calls.”
The operators say you just never know who is going to be on the other end of the call.
“I know I left here Sunday and Monday with a very heavy heart and not knowing that these people I talked to– If they were rescued or not .” Stoeltje says she just hopes that helpful voice on the line brings them some sort of comfort.
“You just hope that after you leave every call that you’ve done everything you could for that person and then pray that they got out safely,” Stoeltje said.
She’s glad her and many other operators across the state are ready for the calls.
“Even if I’m not there, I felt like I was able to do something to help out,” Stoeltje said.
Now Stoeltje and the rest of the team plan to continue helping in any way they can by connecting those people with the help they desperately need– regardless of the distance that separates them.