A few years ago, Wiregrass 2-1-1 was looking for a signature fundraiser. They had a few misses, such as a duck drop that was kind of a nightmare for organizers.
They wanted to hold an event that not only raised money for the nonprofit but also brought exposure.
“We tried a lot of things,” said David Duke, the executive director for Wiregrass 2-1-1. “We have multiple fundraisers each year – four or five that we do every year – but we wanted one to be our signature event that when you think about it, you think of 2-1-1.”
So in 2013, a board member came up with the idea to host a happy hour-type event where people could come for a cocktail, food and to learn more about Wiregrass 2-1-1. Called Sip, Celebrate & Give, the event has been held each year since.
This year’s Sip, Celebrate & Give will be held June 20 at The Grand on Foster in downtown Dothan. There will be music by 4 Pint Minimum (described as a father-son acoustic duo with a Jimmy Buffet vibe). Southern Social Table and Tap will be catering the heavy hors d’oeuvres. A silent auction will feature items such as art work, jewelry, custom-framed photography, and memberships to Landmark Park and even Crunch Fitness. There will also be door prizes for attendees.
“It’s an opportunity that people can set aside a time to give and help our organization so that we can sustain our program,” Duke said.
While Wiregrass 2-1-1 receives grant money for a Help Me Grow program for families with children, the nonprofit does not receive federal or state funding for its call center services. Duke said about 98 percent of its funding is local, including support from the Wiregrass United Way.
When someone dials 2-1-1 from their telephone, they are connected to call specialists who connect residents with community organizations for services such as food pantries, home healthcare, utility assistance, housing, clothing and even opportunities to volunteer within the seven-county region of Southeast Alabama. The center, which provides its help at no charge, has about 900 partner agencies and works closely with them even during disasters such as last year’s Hurricane Michael when the center received 4,000 calls pertaining to the storm. For example, Duke said Wiregrass 2-1-1 was able to connect people without power following the hurricane with resources for live-saving necessities such as oxygen tanks.
The center also has a website − www.Wiregrass211.com − that allows people to search resources by city or county. The call center can also text and email information on resources. The center basically streamlines the search for community resources, Duke said.
“There are just so many, many different reasons why someone would pick up a phone and call us,” he said.
To help with funding, Wiregrass 2-1-1 started what it calls its 2-1-1 Club. The idea is that 211 people each commit to give $100 a year. And for the past few years, Duke’s brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Linda Duke, have matched donations made in the weeks leading up to Sip, Celebrate & Give.
“It’s extremely tough to get funding for a call center so we have to depend on this local support,” Duke said. “The Sip, Celebrate & Give, we really depend on funds that we get from this particular signature fundraiser event each year to meet our budget.”