A Life-Changing Call to 211

"I don't know where we'd have been" without United Way Care Coordinator's help.
March 27, 2024
Houston Raef / United Way of Greater Cincinnati

CINCINNATI (March 27, 2024) — Tonya Flinker’s husband always handled their finances, but he was ill, in a nursing home and nearing the end of his life. And so bills had gone unpaid.

When the electricity was shut off at her Forest Park home, Tonya was terrified. She shares the home with her daughter, who has a developmental disability.  

“I was in such a quandary,” Tonya, who is 74, recalled. “Finding out we were several thousand dollars in arrears in everything was just overwhelming. They all wanted money right away. I didn’t have money.”

Someone suggested Tonya call 211, the United Way Helpline. She spoke to a Care Coordinator named Sharyn.

“She did wonderful things,” Tonya said. “She gave me numbers of places to call to see if I could get help.”

Sharyn also probed a bit deeper. She asked whether Tonya takes medications that require refrigeration. Yes, Tonya said, noting she is diabetic.

Sharyn then explained how Tonya could get her service restored and request 30 days to pay the past-due balance. She would need a physician to certify that terminating her service was dangerous to her health.

Tonya followed through and got the necessary paperwork. And power was restored just 26 hours after it was shut off.

“I was grateful for that. But above and beyond that, (Sharyn) encouraged me. That was so valuable to me, because at that point, I was crying a good portion of every day. Her encouragement was almost more valuable than telling me where to call.

Sharyn Israel, 211 Care Coordinator
Houston Raef / United Way of Greater Cincinnati

“She even checked back with me to see how things were going. I very much appreciated that.”

Tonya was able to get her finances in order during the monthlong reprieve. Also, she switched accounts from her husband’s name to hers.

Sadly, Tonya’s husband, David, died on Jan. 8. They had been married 50 years.  

As she grieved, she remained grateful. If not for 211’s help, “I don’t know where we’d have been,” Tonya says. “I had visions of my daughter being put into a group home and me sitting out on the curb.

“We’ve seen marvelous answers to our prayers.”


United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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