Good Life

United Way Partner Network collaborates to help neighbors

United We Fight. United We Win.

The Centre County United Way call to action compels us to come together, as a community, to fight for the most basic needs — education, financial stability and health.

The world we live in can at times seem chaotic, but most of us who live in Centre County feel safe and secure. Most ... not all. The Centre County United Way Partner Network is important to our community because it catches those who are not as safe and secure as they should be and helps them to achieve success. More than 30,000 people in Centre County do not meet the self-sufficiency standard — they need help so they can move on and support themselves.

One example of how our Partner Network collaborates to keep people safe is described in this true story:

In spring 2016, Karla and her daughter, Alana, moved to State College from Puerto Rico, to live with a relative. The living arrangement promise was broken when the family member abused Karla. Karla went into survival mode. She hung on to her guiding principle: Do what is best for her daughter and be a good mom. That led her to Housing Transitions, with a referral from Child Development and Family Council, a CCUW Partner Agency, which connected with her at Alana’s school.

Once Children and Youth Services accompanied the pair to Centre House, the staff there began to brainstorm as to how to explain what it would be like for Karla and Alana to stay at the shelter. An interpreter helped staff explain the rules, responsibilities and expectations, as well as the assistance they would get while staying at Centre House. Community-building started almost immediately as residents in the shelter enjoyed the novelty of communicating, translating applications and trying to speak Spanish.

Within a couple weeks, Karla was planning for stable housing and keeping her daughter in school. There were many steps along the way, like learning more English and gaining employment. The staff connected Karla with Global Connections, a CCUW partner agency, to work with a conversation partner and helped her sign up for English as a Second Language classes with Mid-State Literacy Council, a CCUW partner agency. They also worked with Global Connections and the Centre County Women’s Resource Centre, a CCUW partner agency, to secure translators for things like attending doctor and dentist appointments and completing applications.

By the end of the summer, Alana was speaking more English and Karla was excited to start a new job. They were ready to move into a transitional housing unit through Housing Transitions. Interfaith Human Services, a CCUW partner agency, was able to help her gain enough funds for her security deposit. Karla and Alana have enjoyed the independence that has come from having an apartment of their own. Both have appreciated the support received from community organizations like the Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul. The housing case manager at Housing Transitions continues to work with Karla to plan for the future and housing that is more permanent. In the meantime, we can appreciate having both Karla and Alana being part of our community where they are working, going to school and making a life.

Karla and Alana, like most people on a journey to success, required more than just one agency to help them navigate. They had six Centre County United Way partners working together — working united. As we celebrate the holiday season, and all through the year, I hope you will do whatever you can to Live United and to support the Centre County United Way Partner Network.

Tammy Gentzel is the executive director of Centre County United Way.