Shiawassee United Way focuses its resources on providing a hand-up rather than just a hand-out. This comprehensive, long-term approach helps with today’s needs, but also lays a foundation for future success. Root causes and barriers are addressed so that people have the opportunity to succeed and be independent. For example, employed people who do not make enough to afford food for their family cannot always get help from pantries when they are open. A quick call to the Shiawassee United Way has resulted in many community members receiving food for their families on their way home from work. This helps people stay employed (long term solution) while feeding a hungry family (meeting a present need).

While the unemployment rate in the county has declined, there are still companies that either lay off workers or go out of business. This causes employees living on the margins to have to find another job quickly, that pays the same or better, before the monthly bills come due. If another job does not come soon, families lose vehicles and homes. Without a way to get to work, keeping a job becomes nearly impossible.

Bill and his wife Julie had a comfortable life. He worked in Owosso at a local manufacturer, and she was a home health care nurse. When Bill’s plant closed and relocated, the couple was left to survive on Julie’s $9 per hour wage. The bills piled up. Soon, their car was repossessed. After a few months, their landlord refused to renew their lease due to rent non-payment. Julie’s sister would be able to take their two children for a month. However, the sister’s landlord could not allow more adults, so Bill and Julie had to sleep on the ground in a cornfield.

Many homeless people, like Bill and Julie, are currently coming to the Shiawassee United Way office looking for help. Most have been sleeping outdoors on the ground. While there is no homeless shelter in the county, United Way staff try to link people with shelter when they can. “Shiawassee United Way tries to make sure people have information about shelter options. They also provide food and warm hats and blankets when those are available,” said campaign chairperson Mark Hudson. “It is very difficult for people to hold a job when they cannot meet even their most basic of needs,” Hudson added.

“Our Economic Development Partnership is doing a fantastic job bringing employment opportunities to Shiawassee County,” said Retta Parsons, CEO of Shiawassee United Way. “It is exciting to see local families having chances to work toward financial independence. However, we must keep in mind that we will need to ensure that there remains a safety net in place as people work from starting wages and into more financially independent situations.”

Shiawassee United Way is providing further services to the community by funding the 2-1-1 Human Service and Disaster Information Line and programs at several community organizations. “Shiawassee United Way takes a comprehensive approach to ensure that people have the tools to work toward self-sufficiency,” said Parsons.

This is the time for United Way’s fall campaign. If you would like to provide a “hand-up” rather than just a “hand-out,” give to Shiawassee United Way either by sending a donation to 123 S. Washington St., Owosso, MI, 48867, or visiting and clicking on the “donate” button to give over their secured website.

Shiawassee United Way: Working with People from the Ground Up was last modified: November 9th, 2016 by Karen Elford