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Opportunity for all: Accessibility and Inclusion in Mile High United Way's 2-1-1 Help Center

Mile High United Way's 2-1-1 Help Center team

Mile High United Way’s 2-1-1 Help Center is powered by exceptional people who are able to stay professional, calm, and compassionate as they interact with callers who may be facing one of the most difficult days of their lives. Last year alone, our resource specialists helped more than 75,000 people navigate a range of personal challenges, from finding affordable child care and tax preparation assistance, to tracking down food, shelter, and rental assistance. 

Finding exceptional people to take on the hard work of becoming a resource specialist is often challenging, but one of Mile High United Way's key partnerships makes this work much easier. For the past five years, we have proudly partnered with the Colorado Center for the Blind, Team EEI (Estrada Enterprises Incorporated), and the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to bring to our team talented, passionate individuals who are blind or visually impaired to serve as interns within 2-1-1. Mile High United Way provides these talented individuals with professional development opportunities, while Team EEI provides intensive preparation, training, coaching, and follow-up to ensure that interns are supported as they learn. 

For some, the internship is their first work experience. The 2-1-1 internship is intentionally designed to ensure that participants are set up to excel during their time in the program and afterward. Over the years, 2-1-1 has hired two interns as full-time specialists, and these former interns continue to serve our community with expert, compassionate resource navigation to this day.

One former intern, Willie Clinton, has worked at Mile High United Way since 2014. After years as a business owner, he participated in the Team EEI internship program and quickly demonstrated his passion for community service and his knack for lending assistance. Willie recounted a call with a woman whose husband—who had handled the couple’s finances—had recently passed away. As the woman began to cry, Willie simply stayed on the phone. Later, she thanked Willie not only for the connections to community resources that could help her, but for taking the time to listen.

Employees like Willie are hard to come by and vital to keep. We—and the thousands of people who have benefited from Willie’s guidance and expertise over the past three years—are thus the direct beneficiaries of our efforts to ensure that all people in our community are provided with opportunities to put their talents and passions to use.

According to the 2015 American Community Survey five-year estimate, of the 139,296 individuals with disabilities in Colorado’s labor force, 20,911 were unemployed—an unemployment rate of 15%. The corresponding calculation for individuals without a disability is 6.2%. There is clearly tremendous opportunity to give individuals with disabilities pathways to engage with the economy to ensure that no human potential goes to waste. Mile High United Way is proud of its programs, investments, and partnerships in pursuit of a community united to create better opportunities for all.