Keeping a teen on track
Josh faced some extraordinary hurdles during his teen years. In addition to being bullied at school, he experienced the death of his father, grandmother and godmother in the same year. His mother was worried. “As a single mom, my most difficult task has been to teach my son how to become a man,” she recalled. She credits the United Way-funded Big Brothers Big Sisters program with helping Josh navigate a difficult adolescence by providing Big Brother “Peter” as a mentor and friend.“Peter has been the answer to our prayers,” she said. He has been there for my son and my son has stayed on track.”
Help with mounting bills
Beth couldn’t work, for health reasons, and began falling behind on her bills. During a visit to her child’s school nurse, she expressed concern about her car insurance and was referred to a program at Catholic Charities that received United Way funding. The program case manager learned that Beth had received a shut-off notice from her utility company, that her ex-husband was not fulfilling his family financial obligations and that Beth’s children lacked health insurance. Through a series of referrals, Beth was connected with the help she needed, including an attorney from The Legal Project who could help obtain child support. Thanks to the help from this United Way-funded program, Beth was able to enjoy a modest Christmas and pay for her son’s graduation cap and gown.
Dinosaurs spark a young imagination
Tim spent much of his time at a United Way-funded after-school program begging to go home. He ate his snack, did his homework and socialized with the other children grudgingly and often under protest. One day he wandered over to the Reading Rainforest Library and discovered books about dinosaurs and lizards. He was hooked. Several weeks later, the doorbell rang at the entrance to the after-school program and Tim stood there, smiling and clutching a book from his personal dinosaur collection. Tim is now the resident dino/lizard expert at the program. He shares facts from his home library and is a talkative, confident little boy thanks to caring adults, a fully-stocked age-appropriate library and an after school program supported by United Way dollars.
Making Fathers Into Dads
Family & Child Service of Schenectady hosts a program called Father Time. Several months ago, “Dennis” joined the group. Dennis had been through a difficult custody struggle and was upset with the family court system, the judge and his children’s mother. During Dennis’ first Father Time meeting, the other men quietly listened, validated his feelings and encouraged him to return. By Dennis’ third meeting, he was able to begin to take suggestions from his peers on how to work more effectively with the court and his children’s mother. Dennis started to change how he saw himself and how he interacted with his family and the family court system. Soon afterward, Dennis was able to work with his children’s mother to develop a more open and supportive relationship with their children. He is now looking at options for returning to school to further his career so that he can be a better role model for his children.
Improved reading skills turn fourth-grader into math scholar
10-year-old Javier was able to participate in A Different Way in Reading, a United Way-funded program in Schenectady that helps young people overcome reading challenges. Javier always liked math but struggled with word problems. Since participating in the reading program, Javier achieved the top math score among fourth graders in Schenectady City schools and recently won a GE scholarship to Science and Engineering Summer Camp at Union College.
Homeless woman starts on new path
A woman who moved to town and became homeless after being conned of her savings secured housing from a Bethesda House program that receives United Way funding. Before arriving at Bethesda House, MaryJoe was living in her car and clinging to her independence by a thread. Then MaryJoe’s car was towed and she lost her remaining possessions. Through the help of Bethesda House and United Way's support, MaryJoe was able to pay all of her bills, start reacquiring possessions and build a small savings account. Today, MaryJoe is taking steps toward self-sufficiency and achieving her dream of owning a business.
Elderly mother finds safety, dignity
An elderly woman reclaimed her dignity and gained hope after her abusive daughter repeatedly locked her in a closet and she suffered repeated sexual assaults by the daughter’s boyfriend. Project PASS, a United Way-funded program of the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Capital Region, in Scotia, placed the woman in a safe shelter for victims of elder abuse. This allowed the victim to gain the confidence to share her story and start on the path to healing.
It Could Happen to You
Five years ago, “Sandra” was attending fundraisers for places like Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH). Then she became a client of their Emergency Shelter. In 2010, Sandra’s life unraveled. In just one month, both her parents died, and her husband suffered a severe stroke. Her husband’s adult children moved him into a residential facility and left Sandra to shoulder the cost of the couples’ Loudonville home on her own. The combined loss of her parents and her husband’s severely-diminished health caused Sandra to sink into a deep depression.
After several months, Sandra had exhausted her resources and lost her home. She contacted her congressional representative, who gave her referrals to local shelters and emergency services. At IPH’s Emergency Shelter, Sandra was given nutritious food, a shoulder to lean on and guidance on how to navigate the local emergency support system. The staff at IPH helped her develop goals and budget her money, and within four months, Sandra was able to move into an apartment of her own. Of her experience, she says, “Though this life experience was humbling, I have learned a lot. With the help and support of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless and friends of IPH, I found the strength to continue.”
Note: The stories above are documented cases from United Way-funded and supported programs across the Capital Region. Names have been changed and some minor details have been altered to protect privacy. Photos are representative of people helped by United Way.