NASHVILLE, TENN. - More families than ever are expected to ask for help this holiday season.
For many Tennessee agencies that provide help at Christmas, the deadline to seek assistance is quickly approaching.
At the 211 Call Center in Nashville, more than 600 phone calls pour in every day. The agency connects people in need with the programs available to help them.
"We answer the phone for 53 counties in Tennessee and we have about 7,000 agencies in our database," call taker Judy Salacuse told News 2.
Lately, more and more calls come from people asking for holiday help.
"They're scared to death about Christmas," Salacuse told News 2, "because they've never had to struggle through Christmas before."
The deadline for several agencies that help Tennessee families during the holidays is October 30.
"I know it's still tough times for a lot of people," said United Way of Metropolitan Nashville spokeswoman Carole King. "They might not be aware, but the deadlines for many agencies that provide assistance getting toys under the tree for families...is next Friday, October 30."
According to King, many of the people struggling right now have never had to ask for help before.
She added, "So it's really good that they can call 211 because it's a really good place to start."
Call volume at the 211 Call Center has jumped dramatically since the economic downtown.
Calls in September 2009 increased 24% over 208 and calls specifically asking for food help have jumped a dramatic 138% since last year.
Christmas help from other agencies will still be available after October 30, but families that may need extra help are urged to call 211 before the deadline.