MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -- Economic hardships from COVID-19 continue to overwhelm United Way of Southwest Alabama and its partner agencies. The 2-1-1 support hotline has been flooded with calls -- many from first-time callers.

In March 2019 2-1-1 received 677 calls -- compared to nearly 1,900 in March 2020.

"From the beginning -- the primary needs of the community were food and security, assistance in utilities, and assistance with housing or mortgage payments," said Trista Stout-Walker, VP of Community Impact United Way of Southwest Alabama.

The 2-1-1 service connects the community with United Way of Southwest Alabama's 47 partner agencies -- one of them Infinite Opportunities food pantry.

"March was just crazy -- it really was," said Mechelle Davis, Infinite Opportunities.

Working with Feeding the Gulf Coast -- Davis was primarily helping the homeless. Since the pandemic -- keeping her small pantry stocked has been a challenge because of the need in the community.

One of only a handful of food pantries that remained open -- she went from helping 200 people a month to nearly 500 people with basic food needs.

"It changed drastically. From two or three to the next day 10 or 15 people a day on top of the homeless and food we packaged up and sent out to them," explained Davis.

She's always looking for volunteers and food donations. If you would like to help you can call her 251-662-9812 or email: info@infiniteopp.org.

Assistance with prescriptions has also been a top concern.

"What we do is provide life-sustaining medications for chronic illnesses and just doing that and keeping doors open every day is a challenge. It takes a village to dispense one pill," said Shearie Archer, Executive Director Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy.

Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy has been the difference between life and death for Mark Langhein -- a diabetic, who relies on insulin and other meds.

"I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you without them," said Langhein.

With limited means - he's showing his appreciation with a hand-carved message: "God Bless Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy And All That Enter."

"It was just something nice to do for people who have been nice to me. It shows that there are still good people left in the world," said Langhein.

Ozanam Charitable Pharmacy is located at 109 S. Cedar Street, Mobile. Their fundraising ability has also been limited -- a recent fundraiser "Prescriptions for a Cause" had to be cancelled.

As record unemployment continues to climb, United Way expects more calls to 2-1-1 and says the "safety net" is ready.

"211 is actually a nationwide service," said Stout-Walker. "And we are working to continue to serve the community and ensure the community has access to resources."

Again simply dial 2-1-1 if you need assistance -- they'll direct you based on ZIP code.

Meanwhile, United Way has also set up "Volunteer Connect" to showcase volunteer needs and their COVID-19 resource page click here. They've also established a relief fund to help their clients respond to community needs related to coronavirus click here for more info.

All content © 2019, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.  

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