Margaret had recently lost her job after taking time off to care for a sick relative. Unfortunately, and coincidentally, her car broke down during that same time period, and major bills for car insurance and rent were also due. She had a small amount of savings to cover some expenses, but it was not enough. She did not feel she could go to friends or relatives for assistance, as they were struggling as well. She was in the middle of a financial crisis.
Sometimes, people need help and solutions right away. The story about Margaret is fictional, but it represents struggles similar to many people in our community. Thankfully, several local nonprofit organizations assist people in crisis situations.
One shining example is the Community Emergency Assistance Coalition (CEAC). This collaborative effort between United Way, Salvation Army, La Plata County Department of Human Services, Round-up Foundation, Housing Solutions for the Southwest, Volunteers of America, Training Advantage and others, pools funds, shares information, provides financial support and brainstorms about solutions for applicants who are in tough situations. The goal of the effort is to assist people to move beyond the current emergencies and back to stable financial situations.
In the absence of crises, people can plan and build for positive futures. The majority of programs supported by United Way are designed to help people develop building blocks of a good life, which will help them to avoid crisis situations. Through education, job training, housing counseling and promotion of healthy lifestyles, these programs work to change lives in a more permanent way for the future of the people served.
Consider the transformation occurring for Habitat for Humanity homeowners. They become proficient at personal financial management, family stability increases, children’s academic performance also increases and parents become more involved with the community. The future is bright for these families.
At United Way, we are planning for the next step, which means building better outcomes for the community as a whole. As you can see, our agencies do a lot of work to move people out of crisis mode and help many more people build opportunities for better futures. Thus, if we all work collectively as a community, we can do more to change the overall landscape to increase opportunities for more people. By gathering expertise, resources and volunteers, we can start planning to permanently tackle issues that so far we have been solving one person at a time. Imagine if we were able to eliminate many of the crises that our neighbors could face in the future by addressing the root causes today.
The three levels of assistance can be described with an addition to the old proverb about a man and a fish: Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime; collaborate as a village and build a fleet of fishing vessels, feed the community for the foreseeable future. Thanks to all who support our efforts and please contact us at 247-9444 to learn how you or your business can get involved with United Way.
Lynn Urban is president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.