With 138,852 people in our region living in poverty, our community has some real challenges. Like many of you, I want to be part of the solution to help more families achieve financial security. I want to do more than text a $10 donation or join some activist’s facebook group, I want to have a direct, personal and positive impact on our community.
United Way Young Leaders have been making an impact by volunteering with the United Way Metrocash Program. Through this program, families making under $54,000 can have their taxes done for free. This saves families in our region $626,800 in tax preparation fees but also makes sure that low-income families receive their maximum tax refund and any benefits, for which they are eligible. While people are waiting to see the volunteer tax preparers, a United Way Young Leader serves as a “Cash Coach” pulling credit reports and connecting them to other programs that help low-income families. There are some pretty cool programs out there like Ways to Work, which helps people buy a car to go to work, or NRC Works, which offers one-on-one financial coaching.
And we do more than pull credit reports, we build connections in our community. We had both lighthearted moments chatting over cake and some heartfelt moments talking about money struggles with our fellow community members. I met one man who had lost his job that week. A few years ago, his wife’s close relative had a long battle with a terminal illness. Because she had the higher salary, he stopped working as a special education teacher to become a full-time caretaker. After years of sacrifice, his relative died and his wife soon after asked for a divorce. With no income and no place to live, he took the first job he could get cleaning office buildings but lost that job without much of an explanation from his employer. I hope he is helped by some of the programs we went over together, but I also hope that he knows that his community cares that he is struggling. That is what it means to LIVE UNITED, which is at the heart of the United Way Young Leaders Society.
You can join us at Think + a Drink: Cultivating Community Leadership through Volunteerism happy hour on April 25th to hear more from Young Leaders who have been serving as Cash Coaches and other volunteers who have cultivated their community leadership through volunteer service.