Fittingly, Shutes’ career background in clinical mental health and crisis work has largely informed and supported his desire to help others in the South Florida community, but his volunteer roots go way back. “I became involved with community service in high school and remember noticing the need for social connectedness amongst my peers and others,” he says. When he learned that Switchboard of Miami/211 was the only crisis center in Miami-Dade county that answered calls for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline he immediately became involved and has worked with the organization ever since, eventually rising to the director position.
Like the more well known 911, 211 can be dialed from anywhere at any time to reach a live counselor in any language. From veteran services to suicide prevention and trauma intervention, the free, confidential referral and information service connects people from all communities and of all ages to a specialists who help find local services. When Switchboard closed in 2016, Jewish Community Services took over the program with funding from The Children’s Trust and continues to run the program today.
In The Know
Despite all it does for the community, Shutes says that just 17 percent of the population is aware of the nationwide service. “We would like our entire community to know about 211 and the resources available through the line,” he says, noting that they have far reaching services that pertain to the needs of all children in the community. “I hope to see our entire community aware of 211 and the resources available to them. I’d love to see our community step up together to bring further awareness to 211,” says Shutes.
Giving and Receiving
Though they dole out help 24/7, 211 Miami is still in need of it for themselves. Shutes says that opportunities abound for those looking to make a difference in the community and it can be as easy as a simple donation. “We are always looking for volunteers who would like to take calls to provide suicide prevention crisis counseling and provide community resources to those who call,” he says. “In addition to that, we are very grateful for any financial donations that will allow us to answer more calls and reach out to more people in our community. If anyone would like to help, all they need to do is call 211 and we will point them in the right direction on how they can give back to their community.”