By Emily Watkins
This past October, United Way Young Leaders volunteered to be our first United Way Prosperity Team, spreading the word about the Earned Income Tax Credit and prosperity building programs. One woman approached me and asked “What do you need, sweetheart?” I said I was hoping she can help me spread the word about the ways we can get more money to working families in our community. Without hesitating, she said she could help and thought she knew six people who would qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and took six brochures to distribute. In some ways, she did a small thing—help someone she met at the library for five minutes by telling her friends about a program. But in other ways, she did something huge—those six people could each receive up to $6,000 from the Earned Income Tax Credit. They could invest that money in early childhood education for their kids, critical healthcare, or housing. With 139,000 people in our region earning below the poverty line of $24,000 a year, more money to working families in our community is transformational. She is a powerful community change agent, empowered with knowledge to change lives and build community.
The other Prosperity Team Members, who left the East End Library that sunny Saturday, reached even more people distributing information in teams outside the library, at local businesses and door to door. One team member asked a woman at a bus stop to join us and by the time she returned to the same bus stop, our new ambassador had already told everyone who came and went from the bus stop. That is how a movement starts, one person tells six people, who tell more. Soon, the movement is bringing knowledge to need across our region.
I have to admit that I am not sure that I would have been as generous as the woman in front of the library or at the bus stop. Like most of my friends, I am a busy young professional and I am not inclined to give a stranger 5 minutes of my time. Even if I did stop to hear about how I can help get more money to working families in my community, I may have asked myself, “what’s in it for me?” or “are there any membership benefits to the United Way Prosperity Team?” She knew what it has taken me time to see—there is no better benefit than a more prosperous and resilient region for us all. Additionally, I will miss out on meaningful experiences in life, if I am always thinking “what’s in it for me?” instead of “what do you need, sweetheart?”
United Way Young Leaders will be going one step further and volunteering as Cash Coaches. We will refer people to financial security programs in our community. You can also be a meaningful and impactful part of the United Way movement to create a prosperous resilient region for us all. Join United Way Young Leaders. Spread the word about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Volunteer with us as a Cash Coach.