If you have cable TV and are at all a fan of home and garden shows, you might have seen the show "Curb Appeal: The Block" on HGTV.

The show, filmed mostly in Atlanta, spotlights one home that needs some major exterior and landscaping improvements. But the team from the show also helps out some of the neighbors with some minor improvements.

At the end, there's a big neighborhood party in the main homeowners' front yard (which might hurt some of the nice new landscaping, but never mind that) and all the neighbors are hanging out together, and everybody's happy.

So where was HGTV this week when Linda Ruggles needed them?

Where to turn

As Glenn Smith reported this week, Ruggles spent six days in jail for a "clean lot violation" because she couldn't afford to pay the $480 fine Mount Pleasant levied against her. Between the unopened packages of shingles on her roof and the scrap metal she collected to sell but stored in her driveway, neighbors had apparently had enough.

Three years is a long time to look at roofing material on your neighbor's home. Of course, if you had to choose between trying to keep your home out of foreclosure and fixing your roof, you might find your priorities shifted a bit.

The story has a happy ending (apart from the jail time) because people have come out to help Ruggles. Though some of the specifics of the case will be known only to Ruggles and Mount Pleasant officials, it's worth noting there are places to turn if you don't know what to do.

Trident United Way's 211 hotline is a gateway to assistance programs.

"Whenever you're faced with a problem and you don't know what to do, call us and let us know," said Charlotte Anderson, vice president of 211 services.

Take the first step

Phone counselors on the 211 line can brainstorm with callers to figure out which services they need.

"I bet any of us can imagine that it's hard to ask for help," Anderson said. "We've got to get better about being real direct and persistent."

That can be difficult. Even though the recession has left very few unaffected, it's humbling to admit that you need assistance.

The 211 line also accepts calls from folks who are concerned that other people might need assistance.

"Anybody can call," Anderson said.

A caller on someone else's behalf would be able to jump-start the brainstorming process; United Way staff would then encourage the caller to have the person in need call them directly. Help wouldn't be sent unasked unless there was an immediate danger.

Anderson said she was glad that people came forward to help Ruggles but said the story illustrates another point.

There are probably lots of people out there right now who could use some help and don't know where to turn.

"This just got too big," Anderson said of Ruggles' case. "It sort of turned that corner into that crisis that it is now."

Nobody likes to ask for help. But it might make the difference between suffering in silence and moving forward.