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First Call for Help: Local service networks assistance

Staff photo by Mark Boehler

Beth Whitehurst is the face behind First Call for Help. She serves as director.

(This is part of a continuing series sharing the stories of programs, clubs and organizations in the community working to help others.)

There's only one place to start for those in need in Alcorn County -- First Call for Help.

The telephone-based program found at 662-286-6500 is a referral service designed to connect those needing assistance with the numerous programs, groups and agencies throughout the county ready to help meet those needs.

First Call for Help Director Beth Whitehurst explained her role is to provide a first place to go for people who find themselves needing assistance.

"I'm really not providing them with a direct service. What I'm doing is telling them where to go for the next step," she explained.

First Call is supported entirely through funding from the United Way of Corinth and Alcorn County and though it's based in the United Way office it is an entirely separate agency from the United Way and goes through the same allocation process as any other United Way program.

It was born in the early 1990s as the United Way staff saw a need for a single place for people to go to be connected with resources within the community.

"They created First Call to have someone who could tell people where to go to find help, and not just to United Way agencies," said Whitehurst.

She said many would be surprised at the number of people struggling in the community and it's a blessing to be able to help them find the help they need.

"People who call are often frustrated, and I try to understand and be patient and listen," she said.

As she talks with callers she can help narrow their needs down and figure out specifically what help they need so she can direct them to agencies equipped to provide that assistance.

While Whitehurst said there's no typical caller, most calls are for help with basic needs such as utilities, food and rent. They also receive a lot of requests for aid with furniture and clothing. She's been surprised by the number of callers who need help with medical or dental issues.

She said it speaks volumes about the generosity of the community that there are so many resources available to help those going through hard times, but it can be difficult for those who are struggling and scared to know exactly where to turn. That's where First Call for Help is able to make a difference, she said.

To get help from First Call for Help, call them at 662-286-6500. To find out more about how to help them and other United Way agencies, contact the United Way of Corinth and Alcorn County at 662-286-8662.