February 11 is National 211 Day! Today, we celebrate the individuals behind the life-enhancing services of 2-1-1 call centers and as it happens, Memphis Public Libraries has a stellar one! Consistently recognized for its leadership, MPL’s 2-1-1 division is a shining example of social services at its finest.
Story by Kendrea Collins
On a balmy Tuesday morning the second floor of the Benjamin L. Hooks Library elicits a quiet murmur- slight chatter from library patrons lingers through the stacks while staff casually go about their duties reshelving and assisting curious guests with even curiouser queries. Tucked into a far corner, away from prying eyes, lies an inconspicuous glass wall behind which workers can be seen chattering away on what appears to be a never ending deluge of phone calls monitored by an unassuming woman of a calm disposition.
Unassuming. A word that merely scratches the surface of the vast impact and respect that Kimberly Jordan-Fluker commands. As the Senior Manager of the LINC 211 resource center for over 5 years, Kim has been an integral lynchpin in the redevelopment of the City of Memphis’s initiative to provide its residents with fundamental resources aimed at strengthening its social and economical foundation. For years, Kim has lent her expertise to a variety of social welfare causes throughout the city and now, she humbly and eagerly will be contributing her expertise on the national level as a part of the National 211 Steering Committee- the first person and woman of color from West Tennessee selected to do so.
LINC 211, which began as the LINC Homework Helpline around 1975, has evolved to become one of the City of Memphis’ leading resources for social and welfare assistance providing residents with pertinent info ranging from rent assistance to suicide prevention to utilities aid. With the additional backing of the United Way of the Mid-South, 211 has been able to evolve past a simple info line into becoming one of the cognitive backbones of social services in Memphis.
“It’s about meeting people where they are. Assistance with empathy and compassion,” says Kim. “You have to be able to view a person’s situation without ego and without airs. We’re here to guide, not judge.” Kim, who employs a diverse staff ranging in ethnicities, age and physical abilities places an immense focus on diversity and inclusion amongst her staff. In essence, “we represent those we help from a place of knowing.”
As a former leader in the realm of higher education, Kim’s public servitude is boundless. Once serving as the Education Director for the Department of Workforce Development and the daughter of the first black female Deputy Director of the EEOC branch in Memphis, she leads 211 with a lifetime of perspective and a heart full of prudence.
“Connecting people to the services they need, sometimes desperately, is very important,” said Mayor Jim Strickland. “Kim has the knowledge, skills, and compassion to make sure our 211 team is able to answer these calls from our community with efficiency and kindness.”
As a member of the National 211 Steering Committee, Kim will be tasked with working with other 211 administrators on projects of change that will ensure that 211’s across the US and Canada, operate effectively and efficiently.
“We’re immensely proud of the work and recognition Kim has garnered for LINC 211” says Director of Libraries Keenon McCloy. “Our library system was founded on the principles of service and servitude- without 211, a critical component of that mission would be wholly lost.”
As it stands, LINC 211’s most pressing matter is the advancement of the Home901 initiative, a public relief aid established in tandem with the funding from Shelby County CSA to assist the community with COVID19 related rent and utility assistance. Coordinated by Ailene Oliver Booker, Kim has ultimate confidence that her staff will deliver the mission of Home901 to great satisfaction.
Looking forward, Kim plans to continue the eminent work of LINC 211 while serving as an unofficial mentor to her colleagues and friends. “I see them all like my family,” she says. “I let them know that whatever they need, I’m here- whether it be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on and I mean that.” A true advocate of benevolence, the City of Memphis is beholden to her continued leadership.
The National 211 Steering Committee meets monthly with members from around the US and Canada and is expected to continue advancing the national LINC 211 network well into 2022.
For more information, please contact Kendrea Collins at [email protected]