Highlighting the difference United Way makes to individual lives in our community is some of the most rewarding work we get to do. We have been working with them and supporting their cause for years. Together, we recently hit upon a strategy to tell their story: highlight the struggle and the successes. Both are real and the former makes the latter that much sweeter. This story is chock full of sweetness. It’s the story of John and Teresa. Our gritty black and white images show you the struggle. But, scroll down and you will also see their successes and the color it brings to each of their lives.
In 2015, John and his girlfriend, Teresa, had fallen on hard times and were sleeping in a local park. In addition to working long hours, John was also pursuing a Criminal Justice degree. “I was at my wit’s end,” remembered John. “I knew I wasn’t getting the quality of sleep I should be and it was affecting my work and school and I hated having my girlfriend sleep outside.” John was also struggling with alcohol addiction. John explained, “I drank to stay warm.” Then, one day, a social worker visited them to learn about their situation and share resources. She mentioned Project Homeless Connect, a one-day, one-stop shop event that brings resources and services under one roof to support people experiencing homelessness. United Way is a proud partner in this annual event.
“I know what it’s like to not have a place to go, a place to eat, a place to take a shower,” said John. “I know how it feels to not be loved. I’m here to spread love.” John enjoys helping people find the resources they need. At last year’s Project Homeless Connect, he helped a male guest navigate resources and they talked quite a bit. As a result, when he ran into him on the bus the other day and he told John “‘I have a job, a home, and I have my grandkids back’ – that made my day,” said John.
John’s advice for others looking to give back is simple: find a volunteer opportunity by visiting United Way’s website. As for what he would say to others who are experiencing challenges in their life, “I would tell them to have hope. My life was changed and yours can be, too.”
We head into unfamiliar territory for these stories and talk to people about very personal experiences. As a result, we learn so much more about the world we live in and what it takes to survive. These experiences affect each of us differently. But, no matter which one of us is interpreting these people, these stories change each of us.
To see more United Way Success Stories, please visit their website.
To see more of our work, please see the rest of our commercial blog.