Since I was young, I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger, something life changing, something that would make me feel like I made a difference at the end of the day. I had heard of United Way, but it wasn’t until I started work as a Community Engagement Fellow that I realized what they were doing and the way they were doing it was something completely different than what I thought.
During our training, we heard the term “collaborative partnerships” over and over again, and how they fit into United Way’s “two generational approach.” This new approach sounded amazing, but I wanted to know more about what exactly it all meant and the unique impact it was having.
My first week in the field, I took part in a United Way bus tour with some of our campaign leaders, designed to give us a firsthand look at the work. When we arrived at the first collaborative, More Than a Roof, it immediately clicked. It was my ‘Ah -ha’ moment. This collaborative houses families who were once living in motels, and works with those families to provide housing, education, transportation, and employment opportunities. The outreach provided by the five nonprofit agencies in the collaborative is essential in ending the increasing rate of families living in motels. I was able to see the work they do and the incredible impact they are having in families’ lives.
I had driven past these motels many times but was blind to the harsh reality of life for the families that called them home. On our trip, we pulled into one of these motels, and at first I thought it was abandoned. The parking lot was dirty, the pool was black, smashed glass was on the sidewalk, and the back of the motel was boarded up with caution signs. I was surprised, horrified, and instantly somber. On the way out of the parking lot, I looked out the bus window and saw a little girl’s bike leaning on the side of the motel. The little pink and purple bike had a rusted metal chain wrapped around it to prevent it from being stolen. For me, this image, now engraved in my mind, represents a continuous cycle of crisis that is chaining thousands of families in our community and preventing them from breaking out of poverty.
Most of us do not think about poverty being an issue in the prosperous Triangle. While we may see the occasional person on the side of the road asking for help, we can’t imagine that 60,000 children live in poverty in this community.
However, I believe hope is not lost for these families. Hope is, in fact, alive and well with help from United Way’s 24 collaboratives. Like More Than A Roof, these collaboratives can be a family’s lifesaver to help pull them up and out of poverty. I am proud to say the work I am doing is making a difference, and is providing hope and help for thousands of families right here in the Triangle.
Learn more about our collaborative partnerships and two generational approach here: http://bit.ly/collabpartner
– Sarah Hill, 2016 Community Engagement Fellow