Monday was National 2-1-1 Day.

2-1-1 may be the best service you have never heard of. Last year, 2-1-1 Maryland, a statewide 24/7 information and referral service, answered more than 266,000 calls for help from individuals facing crises. And here in central Maryland, 2-1-1 Maryland at United Way of Central Maryland answered more than 96,000 of those calls.

2-1-1 revolutionized access to help in Maryland by offering one easy to remember number: 2-1-1. Anyone can call it for help finding health and human resources, like tax or legal assistance, food, health care, utility, housing, or supportive services for families and individuals.

For our community, 2-1-1 is much more than a number to call when you're facing trouble. It is a barometer of need. It's an important source of information for the state, helping the United Way and other community funders and planners understand and respond to trends before it is too late — creating a healthier, more financially stable and self-sufficient community for all.

2-1-1 Maryland is making our community stronger every day, and in honor of National 2-1-1 Day, I'd like to say thank you to the caring call specialists, funders and volunteers who make 2-1-1 call centers possible.

And if you or your loved ones are struggling to make ends meet, tell them to dial 2-1-1.

Mark Furst, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of United Way of Central Maryland.

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