Community Stories

United Way of Portage County
Community Stories

Safe Havens for Families

Cathy was with her abuser for 8 1/2 years. "I didn't want to admit that I was being abused," she said. "I was scared to leave. I kept thinking, 'Tomorrow is another day. I'll wait until tomorrow,' and then I would drink my troubles away."

The turning point for Cathy, now 32, came the night her abuser put a gun to her ribcage, after hours of arguing in the trailer home they shared. Cathy's 7-year-old daughter was asleep in the room next to their bedroom. A neighbor called the police and six officers surrounded their home and apprehended the abuser as he fled the trailer.

"This time it was clear to me that I had to leave for myself and my daughter," said Cathy.

Because distance to services in rural areas often keeps victims like Cathy from seeking help, these area shelters allow more battered women to seek services and keep themselves and their families safe.

At the shelter, a children's advocate works with Cathy's daughter and Cathy has received support to address her drinking problem. "I've been sober for 69 days. I'm stronger for myself and my daughter," said Cathy. Shelter staff members provide transportation to medical appointments and access to programs for employment and education. Cathy is working and getting credits to become an R.N. "Now, when I open my eyes in the morning, I'm excited for the day!" she exclaimed. "It's a long road, but I can finish it. The people at United Way are my angels."

Coleman Adult Day Services

Alice and Tom Smith* have been married for over 50 years and raised their family in Portage County. The couple has been battling Tom's dementia for many years. They struggled with the health care system to finally find a diagnosis for Tom's growing health issues.

Tom Smith worked several different jobs before dementia caused him to need constant supervision. Tom would sometimes become so confused that he would wander several blocks from home. Thankfully, neighbors would accompany him back to the house. Alice says she was near a nervous breakdown before she enrolled Tom in the Adult Day Services program in 2005. Determined to keep Tom at home for as long as possible, Alice has come to depend upon the care Tom receives three days each week at the Center. Alice is able to use her respite time to shop for groceries, clean house, attend to her own medical needs, and baby-sit her dear grandson, secure in the knowledge that Tom is enjoying his day while receiving his medications and assistance with his personal care needs in a safe, secure, and friendly environment.

Developing a Lifelong Passion for Reading

Three years ago, Sierra, a second-grader, was dejected and reclusive as she struggled to read. She avoided reading aloud in class, and though she had dreams of going to college, she was losing her confidence.

Sierra is not alone - illiteracy has disastrous consequences. Too many Portage County third graders read below grade level - learning to read and write at grade level ensures kids are on track for graduation and lifelong success. Many families may not know their kids need help, but Sierra's mother, Thandi did, and she took action. She enrolled in a class devoted to helping children learn to read at a United Way community partner.

"I was hooked from the first class. I learned so much about how to build a bridge between school and home," Thandi said. "Sierra's reading skills have jumped two grade levels. Knowing how to read and write is basic to my children's future. I am grateful to United Way."

United Way of Portage County is working to increase the number of third-graders reading at grade level to create pathways out of poverty. Sierra now has confidence and ambition and a lifelong passion for reading. "Both my youngest girls are now into books like other kids are into television," Thandi said.

Even if you or those you know are not impoverished, poverty affects - and costs - you and this community. The cost of children entering kindergarten unprepared for school is approximately $113 million annually to school systems in taxpayer support, for increased student aid, teacher-related costs and more.

Thanks to donations like yours to United Way, Sierra was able to get the support she needed to discover her joy of reading and learning.

Portage County Home Delivered Meal Program

J and DB* both receive hot home delivered meals. This husband and wife are 80 and 82 years old respectively. The wife is bed-ridden and is unable to care for herself due to a stroke. Her husband has lung disease which requires oxygen 24/7 and can not drive. They both depend on the meals to provide proper nutrition and subsequently lessen the overload of of responsibility of care to the wife.

B and MH* both received hot home delivered meals. This husband and wife are 87 and 90 years old respectively and have numerous medical conditions. They both have difficulty preparing meals and need assistance with proper diabetic diet compliance. The meals have helped them so much; they have asked to increase their meals from 4 meals each per week to 5 meals each per week. Their donation of $4.00 per meal plus the support of the Portage County United Way has enabled this couple to remain in their home.

*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of those involved.

Success stories provided by Portage County United Way.