The stories featured here are from United Way's Community Partners. Each program is funded through one of four impact areas: education, financial stability/basic needs, health and housing. To view the 51 programs run by 38 local nonprofit agencies that receive funding from Greater Ottawa County United Way, click here.
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holland, Power Hour:
Jackson is a 5th grader who comes to Power Hour almost every single day. During the program, he receives help with math and reading. The Boys & Girls Club staff and Jackson's teachers work together with Jackson to ensure he meets his reading goals and completes his homework. Power Hour is important for Jackson because he is able to receive the one on one support he needs to succeed in school and in the future.
Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP), Youth Leadership:
Alicia is a high school senior in the Mas Adelante Program. She identifies as both Latina and Cambodian. Due to generational poverty, paying for college is an area of concern for her. Through the program, Alicia has received support and step by step guidance through the college and scholarship application processes. Now she can see a pathway to her goal of becoming a physician’s assistant.
FINANCIAL STABILITY/BASIC NEEDS:
Love INC of Allendale, Transportation Assistance Program
Vivian was a client receiving assistance from Love INC. She had a vehicle but did not have enough extra cash to purchase gas to get to a job interview. Through the Transportation Assistance Program, Vivian received gas vouchers in order to make it to the job interview arranged by Love INC. She was hired for the job and received additional gas vouchers to get to work for the first couple of weeks. After she received her first paycheck, she was able to start paying for gas on her own.
Salvation Army – Grand Haven, Emergency Social Services
Bobbi is a single mom with two high school sons. She came to the Salvation Army’s food pantry and asked to talk about case management. Through the intake and assessment process, she began the journey to self-sufficiency. Bobbi met with the case manager regularly and established financial goals to pay off debt, start savings and find a better job. After nine months she had accomplished all three of her goals by working hard and learning to advocate for herself. During the holidays, The Salvation Army signed her children up for gifts through the Adopt-a-Family program. Her oldest son, a senior in high school, received his cap and gown as a gift. Now at the beginning of the new year, Bobbi is working on new goals. She wants to establish an emergency fund of $1000, begin a healthy eating program, and continue to pay off her debt.
Mosaic Counseling, Mental Health Counseling
Mosaic Counseling received a phone call from a mother who said that her daughter had been suicidal and hospitalized. After she was released, the family did not know where to turn. The daughter’s former therapist revealed that she wouldn’t accept the family’s insurance and they owed more than $1,000 for prior appointments. A friend suggested calling Mosaic Counseling. The young woman saw a Mosaic therapist the next day for a co-pay of $10. The mother called Mosaic Counseling and said, "All I wanted was for someone to treat my daughter like she was their daughter, and you and your therapist did that." Children, teens, adults, couples, families are able to receive quick and affordable mental health services through Mosaic Counseling.
Ottagan Addictions Recovery, Addiction Recovery & Treatment Support – Ottawa
"OAR saved my life!" That's what you'll hear if you mention OAR to Dennis. Dennis was a hard-working husband and father, a supervisor at a local manufacturer. But his addiction to alcohol and to increasingly more dangerous drugs chipped away the life he'd built for himself. He lost his job. His wife left him, and to shield their young son, would not allow Dennis to see him. He lost his house and car and moved into a cheap hotel.
One day, Dennis gathered his courage and came to OAR. He stopped using all substances that day and began his recovery. While on the waiting list for the Chester Ray residential program, he faithfully attended a 3-day per week Intensive Outpatient Program, a difficult commitment given his circumstances. At the Chester Ray Center, Dennis began learning about addiction, gaining skills to stay in recovery, developing healthy habits and friendships, and most importantly, regaining his hope and dignity. Dennis successfully graduated from the Chester Ray program, but his recovery didn't end there. He then began to reclaim what he'd lost to addiction. He got a good job at a local company, and quickly moved back into a leadership role. He bought a car. He re-established relationships with his family, including his ex-wife and son. A new network of people in recovery became his support system and social group. Best of all, Dennis's recovery produced a whole new, better version of himself.
Good Samaritan Ministries, Community Housing Partnership
Jordan was born in West Michigan and raised by his mother who struggled with mental and physical illness. “I grew up in poverty. We relied on food stamps and public assistance. I definitely have more bad memories from my childhood than good.” As a young teenager, Jordan and his mom moved to Texas where he learned to support himself. By his late teens, he was working full time and secured housing for himself. But when Hurricane Harvey hit, both his home and job were wiped out. He made the decision to relocate back to Michigan.
Jordan was able to find work, but was unable to find housing he could afford. Eventually, he resorted to living in his car. “Sleeping in my car was an eye-opener. I was good at covering it up, but I knew my situation had to change.” A co-worker told him about the housing services offered at Good Samaritan Ministries and he called right away. He was connected to community resources to meet his immediate needs, received financial assistance, and became permanently housed within three weeks.
“I had nothing, but my girlfriend had faith in me, and Good Sam gave me the opportunity to succeed. My priority now is to take care of my family and give them the childhood I never had.” Jordan and his family have been stably housed for a year. He is working full time, saving money for the first time in his life, and strengthening his relationships. “I had been thinking short-term for years. Good Sam put me in the position to think long-term and invest in my family’s future. I now have opportunities I couldn’t have imagined. I hope that sharing my story will help someone who is where I once was and motivate them to change their life.”
Resilience, Supportive Housing
Marisol* called the Children's Advocacy Center after her 10-year old daughter, Isabella, disclosed to her that Marisol's boyfriend, Donny, had been sexually abusing her. While working with the Children's Advocacy Center to address the abuse Isabella suffered, Marisol shared that she was fearful of Donny, who had been emotionally and physically abusive towards her as well. She was very concerned for their safety, knowing that Donny would be very upset once he knew he'd been caught for the child abuse. The Children's Advocacy Center referred Marisol to Resilience for help with domestic violence.
Marisol was working full time until this situation occurred. After the abuse, she was physically and emotionally exhausted, had symptoms of PTSD, and was unable to work. She wanted to move to another area where she didn’t have to worry about running into her abusive ex-boyfriend, but she didn’t have the financial means to do so. Through the Supportive Housing program at Resilience, Marisol was able to move into a safe and affordable apartment in another part of the county where she didn't have to worry as much about running into Donny. With the help of her Supportive Housing Advocate, Marisol was connected to MI Works and eventually found a better job. She is proud that she has been able to become financial independent; something she didn’t think would ever be possible.
Marisol said that the caring people from the Children's Advocacy Center and the Supportive Housing staff at Resilience have helped her feel safe again. She is encouraged by the progress she and Isabella are making and feels hopeful about the future. The Supportive Housing program is the stepping-stone that Marisol and Isabella needed to be able to rebuild their lives following the trauma of domestic and sexual violence.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the confidentiality and safety of our clients.