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Goodbye 211

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The Kruth Talks

By Amber Kruth

Goodbye 211

If you haven’t heard of the Arkansas social services phone number, 211, it’s too bad and too late. It was implemented two years ago to provide information about basic human needs resources like shelters, rent and utility assistance, physical and mental health needs, support of the elderly or disabled, child care, employment transportation or training, and volunteer opportunities. But 211 has been disconnected due to lack of funding. A concept of United Way, 211 also has a Web site, arkansas211.org, which has brought in another 200,000 contacts. It is tragic that a service like 211 has been discontinued; even after the $1 million-a-year operational budget was slashed to $400,283. That’s a fraction of the estimated total benefit of more than $5 million to the state and its individuals, derived by diverting 911 calls, unnecessary nursing home use and reducing social service workers’ time. Perhaps the Web site will remain so we will have the guidance and assistance necessary in such an unstable time.

Wal-Mart Settles

The global dispute between hourly laborers and Wal-Mart for unpaid wages and break disputes has been settled for $85 million. The most recent class action suit sought $640 million, and yet the attorney for the workers’ claims that these plaintiffs will see some “real money” for their ill-treatment. Perhaps these claimants feel similarly to those Michigan Walmart workers who in 2008 settled a potential $2 billion judgment for $54 million, with the understanding that measures would be implemented so that workers would be paid for hours worked.

Walmart Gives

The Walmart Foundation is pledging $32 million toward a Holiday Giving Campaign and Historic Hunger Relief Effort. Thirty-five 24-foot refrigerated trucks delivered food from Walmart to cities including New Orleans, Boston, Miami, Memphis and to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank in Bethel Heights.

These trucks were delivered true to the holiday nature packed with perishable goods to be distributed to the hungry and homeless. One in eight Americans are fighting hunger, and president of the Walmart Foundation, Margaret McKenna, proclaimed that there’s a 100 percent increase in people going to a food bank for the first time. Many food banks nationwide are looking for healthier alternatives to help the impoverished. If you are a local farmer and can donate your “less perfect” or over abundant goods (think of zucchini season next year), contact a food shelter. Help them, help you.

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