Stories of Lives Changed

Smiling Mennonite mother and son with dog on lane wane of farm house.

Changing Lives

Clarice’s Story

Clarice was having trouble getting her life back on track when she arrived at the local Connection Centre. With each visit, the caring staff built a relationship with her and she shared her story. Clarice revealed she had an abusive partner and wasn’t sure where to turn. Staff put her in touch with the services she needed to help find a place to live, a job and mental health supports.

Now, Clarice is doing better. She continues working on improving her mental health and has her own apartment. Clarice is giving back too! She volunteers at the Connection Centre, helping sustain the sense of caring and community she felt from the first moment she arrived.

Victoria’s Story

By the time Victoria arrived at a United Way supported program for youth experiencing violence, she had run away from several foster homes and had been recruited into the world of human trafficking by someone she trusted and thought cared for her.

After becoming pregnant at 16 and having her daughter removed from her care, Victoria decided it was time for a new beginning. With support, Victoria has blossomed and is well on her way to starting her young life over again. She is reconnecting with family and healthy supports, goes to school and works part-time to support herself. Victoria’s next goal is working towards the day that she can reconnect with her daughter and be part of her life.

Parker’s Story

“I never thought this would happen to me. I’ve always worked hard and paid my way. Lately though, it’s been getting harder to make ends meet. Our rent has gone up. I have to drive out of town to work every day and it costs so much to fill up my car. My kids seem to need more the older they get. My wife started working outside the home and that helps, but we’re still just scraping by. It keeps getting harder and harder to pay all the bills and buy groceries every week. I started feeling a little desperate, but then a friend of mine told me about the equal access market in our town.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I’d never asked for help before and didn’t know what to expect. But everyone was so welcoming! You never feel judged, there’s always so much food to choose from and it doesn’t cost much, which really helps with money so tight. This market has made our lives a little easier.”

Henry’s Story

It was a bitterly cold February and Henry found himself living on the streets, a tent his only shelter. He was able to get food, but a warm, safe place to call his own seemed like a dream until Henry connected with a transition home, where he settled into his own room with regular meals and the support he needed. Thanks to the caring staff, Henry made connections with further supports to help him on his journey out of homelessness.

Gabrielle’s Story

Sixteen-year-old Gabrielle and her family were living in poverty and there was no heat or water in the old trailer they called home.

All Gabrielle wanted was a stable home so she could return to high school and work toward her diploma. A concerned member of the community reached out on Gabrielle’s behalf to a local United Way funded youth support organization.

Now, Gabrielle’s life is much better. Staff at the support organization helped her find a safe, stable place to live and she continues working toward her goal of becoming the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

Alan’s Story

After suffering for years with chronic mental health issues, Alan found found himself without a home.

As life became increasingly desperate, and his frustrations grew trying to navigate the service system to find a place to stay, reached out for help. Once he found his way to a local United Way Connection Centre, the compassionate staff were able to advocate for him and work to connect him to the right programs so he could finally get off the streets and into a home to call his own.

Now, Alan is doing better. He still faces challenges, but thanks to a United Way Connection Centre, he has a stable home and can focus on building a brighter future for himself.

Marcia’s Story

Marcia’s husband was sexually, emotionally and physically abusive to her and her children. They moved around many times, and Marcia became more and more isolated. As the abuse continued to escalate, Marcia acted, escaping with her children and moving far away.

After so many years of trauma, Marcia and her children struggled with anxiety, night terrors, and paranoia. Desperate for help, she connected with a United Way supported program and they began their personal journey to healing.

Now, the family is doing better. The children are adjusting well to their new life and Marcia has become a tireless advocate for herself and her children, and continues to work at building a brighter future.

Delia’s Story

“My husband and I recently separated and I lost my job. I was able to find another, but it’s not full-time and I’m not earning what I did before. A friend of mine told me about this program and how much it helped her family. I hated asking for help, but I didn’t want my daughter to suffer and go without her summer camp.

“When I contacted the program and found out I was eligible, I was so happy I cried. The people who helped me were so understanding. I was able to send my daughter to camp this past summer and her joy melted my heart.

“I am still not working full-time and might have to use this program again next year. I won’t hesitate to reach out for the help I know is there for my family if I need it.”

Priya’s Story

Priya experienced grief and anxiety for some time after her brother died. She didn’t sleep well and continually had flashbacks to the day her brother passed away. Feeling unable to open up with her family members about what she was going through, Priya reached out for help.

Working with her counsellor, Priya learned how to deal with her anxiety and flashbacks and not be too hard on herself. She also learned to focus on how she contributed to her late brother’s life, as well as how he had contributed to hers, instead of only the day he passed.

Now, Priya is doing better thanks to United Way and a supported partner. She is better able to remember the good times with her brother, feels less anxious and more connected with her family and close friends.

Walt’s Story

Walt needed a helping hand. Faced with eviction and a loss of services, he reached out to a connection centre in his community.

Once Walt arrived at the centre, he found a welcoming environment with staff and volunteers who were willing to help. The housing stability worker negotiated with Walt’s landlord to allow him to temporarily stay in his home while other staff worked on finding alternate housing and supports.

Now, Walt is doing better thanks to United Way and a supported partner. He looks forward to finding a new place to live and continuing his journey out of homelessness.

Sally’s Story

“Money was usually pretty tight. Being retired and widowed, I relied on CPP, a survivor’s pension and a small pension from my work.

“My bank account was almost empty by the end of every month and I always had to think about what bills I might have to put aside so I could afford groceries. I was stuck in a constant cycle month in, month out until I discovered a local equal access food market.

“Even with the little money I had, I could go to the market every month and buy healthy food. I wish I’d heard about the market sooner. I still have to be careful with what I spend, but thanks to United Way and a supported partner in the town I live, I feel I’m better off and the future looks a little brighter.”

Erin’s Story

Erin was desperate for a sense of security. She’d been living with her mother, Pam, but due to Pam’s ongoing struggles with mental health and addictions, the family had been without a stable home for several years.

Erin decided to move to Huron County to live with a friend, but shortly after she arrived, Erin began struggling with her own mental wellness. After a stay in hospital, Erin was referred to housing assistance supports. Thanks to this help, Erin was able to secure financial assistance to meet her basic needs and eventually a Rent- Geared-to-Income housing unit. To address her mental wellness, Erin was referred for a psychological assessment and she was able to find more of the help she needed.

Now, thanks to United Way and a supported partner, Erin lives independently in her community and credits the ongoing support and advocacy she received with showing her a brighter future.

Kelly’s Story

Kelly lived with an abusive partner for almost 30 years. She connected with a local shelter several years ago and has received ongoing counselling since that time.

During the past year, Kelly began working towards leaving her abusive partner and dealing with her addiction issues with alcohol, which she used to cover the pain of her relationship. Three months ago, Kelly was finally able to leave her partner for good.

Now, thanks to United Way and a supported partner Kelly is living independently, finally free of her abuser. The shelter continues to safety plan, counsel and support Kelly and her existing and emerging needs. For the first time in her adult life, Kelly knows what freedom feels like and she looks forward to a brighter future.

Phil & Sandra’s Story

Phil and Sandra were like a lot of retired couples in their small town. They were involved in clubs and activities, volunteered and got to know many people. Unfortunately, as they got older it became harder and harder to do everything they wanted. It left the couple feeling depressed and isolated. Phil started noticing a change in Sandra. She had trouble remembering things and it left her feeling frustrated and even more isolated.

From their time volunteering, Phil knew about United Way and their support of a food delivery program that had been a lifeline for many others in their community so he reached out for help. Ordering meals gave Phil an opportunity to relieve some of Sandra’s stress and what started out as an occasional order became a regular event Phil and Sandra enjoyed sharing as a couple.

Now, Phil and Sandra are doing better thanks to United Way and a supported partner. Sandra still struggles with the challenges her memory loss brings, but ordering meals gives her a feeling of independence and the friendly volunteer delivery drivers are a lifeline helping the couple stay connected with the community they love.

Max & Eva’s Story

“It isn’t easy living on a single income with two kids. Sometimes, having such a tight budget means making tough decisions about what we can and can’t buy for our kids to eat.

“That’s why we were lucky to find help from United Way and a supported partner. Now, instead of having to decide whether to buy fresh produce or school snacks for our kids, we’re able to get some of both and stick to our monthly budget.

“Thank you to our local food bank and United Way for helping us and making our lives a little brighter.”

Stephanie’s Story

Stephanie’s father was dealing with serious mental health issues and Stephanie had to leave home. She was connected with a local youth shelter offering a safe place for her to stay and recover.

Stephanie struggled with depression and had trouble even leaving her room when she first arrived. Through counselling and living in a safe environment, Stephanie was able to start working through her emotions and gain a sense of comfort and stability.

Now, thanks in part to United Way and one of our partners, Stephanie has a full-time job and is on the list for supportive, independent housing in her community. The future looks brighter for Stephanie and she continues working on improving her well-being.

Jake’s Story

Jake and his family were doing okay. Money was tight but they weren’t struggling too badly. Then Jake lost his job and money quickly became a major concern. Tensions between Jake and his partner increased and he struggled with guilt and sadness over not being able to support the people he cared about.

Worried his family would suffer if he didn’t get help coping with his frustration and anger, Jake reached out for help. Jake started attending therapy and learned how to improve his communication skills and build healthier relationships with his partner and children so he no longer felt so alone. 

Now, Jake and his family are doing much better. Thanks to United Way Perth-Huron and a supported partner, Jake feels more optimistic and knows he’s better equipped to face whatever challenges come his way.

Rick’s Story

Rick had been living rough for a long time. He managed to get by, but every year it got a little harder to survive. Eventually, Rick went to a local shelter, trying to get off the streets.

At first, Rick struggled to adjust. He’d been on his own for so long, being around so many people was a little overwhelming and Rick stopped dropping by. But everyone knew and liked Rick. When workers from the shelter, or even others who used the shelter saw him, they encouraged Rick to go back and give it another try.

Now, Rick stays at the shelter regularly. He’s grateful for a place to rest, eat a healthy meal and connect with other resources. Thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner, Rick has the chance to get his life back on track and have a brighter future.

Dan’s Story

Dan lost his job because of poor physical health.

Unemployed, and without a place to call his own, he struggled with his mental health. It got so bad Dan felt as though he didn’t want to live anymore. Before he did anything to harm himself, Dan reached out for help and found his way to Huron Turning Point.

Once Dan arrived, his life started getting better. The staff listened with compassion and helped him work through his challenges. Dan felt lucky to have a roof over his head and three meals every day. Even when he was on his own and working, affording rent and food was difficult, so his stress was greatly reduced.

Now, Dan is hopeful. The other residents and staff at Turning Point have become like family to him and he has started working odd jobs because he loves to help. With another grandchild on the way, Dan is looking forward to putting down roots and building a brighter future.

Carol’s Story

“It almost broke me.”

That’s how Carol described losing her driver’s license after macular degeneration began affecting her good eye.

Feeling alone. Losing independence. These are challenges Carol faced and COVID-19 only made things worse as she found herself separated from family and friends.

Thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner, Carol was able to access affordable transportation to get to and from appointments, reclaiming some of the independence she feared she would lose. So many vulnerable people face challenges that are hard to deal with. United Way is there to help ensure people like Carol don’t have to walk alone through challenging times.

Esther’s Story

Esther worried about leaving the hospital. She was feeling better, and she missed sleeping in her own bed, but the thought of going home caused her great stress.

Because Esther lived by herself, with no friends or family nearby, she knew there weren’t any groceries in the house to keep her going once she was discharged; and thanks to COVID-19, Esther was terrified of going out shopping when her health was still so fragile.

Fortunately for Esther, someone at the hospital was able to put her in touch with the mobile food bank in the area and they made sure a delivery of nutritious food arrived at Esther’s home. Thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner, Esther could focus on healing instead of worrying about her next meal.

Adam’s Story

Twelve-year-old Adam was on the autism spectrum and endured bullying at school. Adam attended counselling with his mother because he had difficulty socializing. At first, Adam made very little eye contact with the counsellor and never asserted himself.

Slowly, Adam developed a rapport with his counsellor. As Adam began to trust more, he started talking about the times he felt bullied. With support, he began practicing assertiveness with his classmates while developing his self-worth, character and hobbies.

Thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner, Adam has a better understanding of himself and feels good about the changes in his life.

Rita’s Story

Rita was struggling. After she paid her bills there wasn’t much left over to buy healthy food. When Rita went shopping, she’d watch people fill their baskets with fresh fruits, vegetables and meats and wonder, “Why can’t that be me?” It left her feeling depressed.

Then Rita learned about a local equal access food market from a neighbour. As soon as she walked through the doors, Rita knew she’d found a good place. The staff were friendly and there were so many local fruits, vegetables and meats available at cost or below.

Now, Rita feels hopeful. Times are still tough, but thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner, there’s a place she can go for healthy, affordable food; where Rita feels valued and connected to her community.

Candace’s Story

Candace dropped out of high school at 16 and had a child at 19. She also relied on an abusive partner financially. Candace’s child was removed from her care before the age of one because of her partner’s abusive behaviour and soon after, Candace and her partner found themselves homeless.

In need of help, Candace reached out to a United Way supported emergency shelter but was not happy to be there. Eventually, Candace left so she could be closer to her abusive partner. Unfortunately for Candace, her partner’s drug abuse increased and he became even more emotionally and verbally abusive. Candace missed her child terribly and began to understand that making better choices would improve her life in so many ways.

Candace ended her relationship and returned to the shelter. She learned new coping skills, accessed counselling, parenting support, help with housing and started exercising regularly. Eventually, she began supervised visits with her child and not long after was granted full custody.

Now, Candace has a small apartment, a supportive team around her and the chance at a brighter future for her and her young child thanks to United Way and a United Way supported partner.

Jane’s Story

Jane lives alone on a fixed income. She has arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and requires dialysis three times a week and travels from Exeter into London to receive this life-saving care.

Jane takes pride in keeping up with her bills but thanks to the pandemic, she was forced to switch from volunteer transportation to agency vehicle transportation. The difference in cost was significant and caused Jane anxiety. She worried that she would need to decide between paying for her transportation or groceries and rent.

When Jane learned about the help available to offset the cost of her trips, she wept. Jane had been having trouble sleeping as she tried to figure out how to cover the cost. Thanks to United Way, Jane feels better knowing she can get to her appointments and maintain her health without added financial strain.

Joe’s Story

Joe had first reached out for counselling when he received his prostate cancer diagnosis nine months before, but now he was facing an even greater challenge.

Joe’s cancer was spreading beyond his prostate and it required extensive treatment. Tearfully, Joe confessed to feeling overwhelmed and was terrified he couldn’t win his battle with cancer. Joe was also concerned about his wife, Arlene, and their adult children, Davis and Samantha, who were both still living at home trying to make ends meet.

Joe’s family needed support.

Initially Joe and Arlene started counselling and later, Samantha decided to get help. Like many families, their issues went deeper than a cancer diagnosis; including communication problems between parents and children and unresolved issues between Joe and Arlene. Through several sessions, the family began to heal.

Ultimately, Joe couldn’t beat cancer but before his death he found peace. After Joe’s passing, the rest of the family returned for grief counselling to help ease the pain and loss they felt.

Emma’s Story

Emma signed up for the Crock Pot cooking program to learn nutritious, easy and healthy recipes to feed her family. Emma had recently left an abusive relationship and was feeling like a “bad mom” for not leaving sooner, so she was excited to learn new skills and feel like a “good mom” again. During the program Emma experienced laughter and connections with other parents and improved her cooking skills and knowledge. When Emma learned she could keep the crock pot she openly cried. Through the work of United Way Perth-Huron and local targeted programs, moms like Emma can gain confidence and learn new skills to help them move to a new stage of life as the sole provider and supporter of their families.

Jessica’s Story

A referral was made by a teacher who expressed concern for a young woman who regularly skipped school and was about to be evicted from her home due to her mother’s recent incarceration. Jessica had no source of income and was relying on friends and neighbors for food. It was quickly discovered that her mother struggled with addiction, others who would “crash” at their family home and she often felt unsafe, spending most days locked in her room. Through the work of United Way Perth-Huron and extended care, this young person has secured financial assistance from Ontario Works, is living in a supportive room and board arrangement, attends school regularly, has a part-time job and is volunteering in her community. Jessica recently had the opportunity to attend a three-day youth leadership conference and is now an active member on Student Council.

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