UWOC & 211: Bringing Partners Together to Address Community Needs

White woman with blue hair working at a table with a laptop


United Way’s 211 resource and referral line connects local residents to local services. Local United Ways, including United Way of Olmsted County (UWOC), work alongside 211 staff to make sure that the 211 database stays up to date. 

“UWOC's piece is coordinating with our local agencies and organizations to make sure that [211’s] information is up to date and accurate, and that all of the programs that are being offered in our community are listed there,” Sonja Sommerfeldt, UWOC Impact Program Coordinator, recently explained. “So for instance, since Big Brothers Big Sisters just expanded into Rochester, it's my job to make sure that 211 then gets updated with their new programs in this location. That way, callers can be directed there.” 


211 in Southeast Minnesota 

  • 211 responded to 5k requests in Southeast Minnesota in 2023, including... 
  • 1.2k requests for housing help 
  • 250 requests for food relief 
  • 300 requests for help with utilities 
  • 1.8k requests for tax assistance  


As an expert in community need, UWOC’s coordination with 211 is vital to making sure the database stays comprehensive. In that sense, Sonja’s – and UWOC’s – work with the 211 line allows our organization visibility on both local needs that are being addressed and service gaps in our community.

This coordination makes a big difference when it comes to connecting local people with local resources and meeting Southeast Minnesotans’ needs. 

“Carla, the director of the Great Rivers 211, is so excited about us having a relationship,” Sonja shared, “because then I can help her do that [connecting] work. She covers 21 different counties, so for her to know what's going on in Fillmore County or Winona County requires partnerships– there's no way that she could ever have the most comprehensive information without the help of others in the local communities/someone who knows what’s happening in the local communities. So that's where the United Ways come into the 211 system.” 

“We bring the pieces together.”

UWOC also plays a large part in coordinating with 211 and VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Sonja supports 211 during tax season by making sure 211 staff have the training to get taxpayers scheduled with VITA appointments. She also coordinates interpretation at all VITA appointments in our region, securing necessary interpreters for our neighbors who are more comfortable speaking a language other than English, especially when dealing with something like taxes, which can be frightening to many people (including native English speakers!).




About United Way of Olmsted County  

United Way of Olmsted County (UWOC) is a community change organization with the mission to unite people and resources to improve lives in our community.

We fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community in a variety of ways: we collaborate with local organizations, businesses, and community leaders to mobilize their expertise and resources; we accelerate impact by strengthening systems and cultivating leaders to build a community where all people can thrive, regardless of race or place; and we participate in a collective effort that empowers local residents to create lasting transformations in their own communities through our focus on community-driven change. 


Adèle McLees 

Communications Coordinator 

United Way of Olmsted County