Another life changed, thanks to you!
Mary and Tony's Story
There was a lot going on in Mary and Tony’s lives. Their youngest daughter was getting married. The building industry bust was adversely affecting their general contracting business. Tony became agitated and began acting strangely. Could it be depression or stress? He spent money without explanation. Family and friends began to notice Tony doing odd things. An oddity here or there is normal as a person ages, isn’t it? But Tony became meaner and more judgmental. Mary found out later that friends didn’t like who he was becoming and slowly backed away.
The final straw came one night when Tony came home at 2:30 am with the car banged up and no explanation of what happened. A stranger had towed him home. The car was literally knee deep full of mud. Mary came outside to find him nonchalantly washing the car in the driveway, dressed only in underwear. The next day he was tested for drugs, alcohol and stroke as they sought answers. Several doctors visits and tests later Tony was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Years ago, Mary had volunteered at the Adult Day Care run by Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation. She never imagined that her husband would become a client. As Tony declined, Mary toured “The Club” but didn’t feel he was ready. After a very long year of denial, guilt, and depression, she realized how much Alzheimer’s was taking away from her life as well. “Our lives changed when Tony started his ‘volunteer job’ at the club,” Mary remembers. The club’s support group has helped her to provide better care for Tony. Mary has time to spend with her grandchildren and friends again. Today they are living their lives in a safe and healthy way.
Another life changed, thanks to you!
When you’re in your 20’s you feel invincible! That’s how Karen felt as a young adult. Working in restaurant kitchens, she’d do whatever it took. She didn’t realize how important it is to do things safely. If a heavy box needed to be moved; no thought was given to how she could damage her back long term. When she was injured, she just pushed on because she needed to work, thus making the injuries even worse. Twenty-five years of hard, painful work came to a screeching halt when some coworkers horsing around fell into her. She went down and couldn’t get up!
Doctors explained she had degenerative disk disease; some of the worst they’d ever seen. She developed neuropathy; losing the feeling from her knees down. Since she couldn’t cook in a restaurant kitchen from a wheelchair, her career was ended. Without work, she was unable to provide for herself. “Getting government assistance is not providing for yourself, Karen said. But as much as I hate it, it’s the only thing I’ve got.” This assistance is not enough to cover basic rent and it wasn’t long before she became homeless. “Circumstances that you have no control over will sometimes push you into the streets.”
Always on the move, Karen had to search for places to plug in her wheelchair and to “spruce up” after being on the streets. She carried everything she owned on the back of her chair. Her only companion is her dog “TOBE.” This risky lifestyle has finally come to an end with the help of Housing for Homeless and Catholic Charities. She is now living in transitional housing being counseled by both agencies. She is focused on where she wants to live next and how to budget in order to keep her expenses down.
Another life changed, thanks to you!
Frank III, who begins sixth grade this year, has gone through some things. Even with a loving and supportive father (Frank Jr, who works at a local bank) his family struggled with problems that bled into his school life. As a 1st grader he struggled to read and developed a stutter. Troubles at home came to a head when his mom was removed and his dad had 48 hours to reestablish a home, food and clothing for himself and Frank III.
Several local agencies, including The Salvation Army, Early Learning Coalition and Children’s Advocacy Center all helped this family get back on their feet and reestablish a safe and loving home together. Frank III enrolled in Boys and Girls Club where he discovered great mentors and myON, all of which helped him to get back on track in school and with his reading.
Today, Frank III, (who has plans to be an engineer) says “I usually got bad grades, but by 5th grade I learned how to read. And I was taking math down with an iron fist.”
Dad appreciates how far they have come, as well: “I always thought when they asked at the bank for donations for United Way that it was for people who were really financially not doing well, not for me. But when that situation happened to me, I didn’t know how I was going to make it. Now I contribute and I’m happy about that.”
Our work does so much more
Rebecca and Leslie's Story
Leslie was born with a broken arm. Her parents could have had it fixed at birth, but chose to leave her arm as it was so they could collect disability and fund their drug addiction. Leslie’s grandfather saw what was happening and fought for custody of Leslie for years, finally adopting her when she was 8 years old. As she grew up, her grandfather worried about a lack of positive female role models in her life and approached United Way’s partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters, to find a mentor for his teenage granddaughter. A special situation, BBBS waited months to find the right match for Leslie. Enter Rebecca. After a severe accident left Rebecca lucky to be alive, she felt compelled to give back and signed up with BBBS to become a mentor.
Once paired by BBBS, Rebecca and Leslie found a sisterhood stronger than any blood ties. According to Rebecca, “I knew when we met she was the right little for me. I see myself in her. She went through a lot as a child and to see her today, to know that she is a vibrant, beautiful person gives me hope.” They spend time together taking dogs to the park, practicing driving and attending each other’s family functions. Leslie was even a bridesmaid in Rebecca’s wedding.
Tragically, Leslie’s grandfather became terminally ill due to chemical exposure from his time serving in Vietnam. He hopes to live long enough to see his granddaughter graduate high school, but has no guarantees. However, Rebecca has taken steps to become a foster parent so that she can take Leslie in when the time comes. Leslie’s grandfather knows that no matter what happens to him, Leslie will be safe and secure and loved. Family doesn’t always mean the one you were born with; sometimes it’s the one you make.
Disaster Preparedness and Response
Just one more way your United Way strengthens our community!
Your United Way has a long history of helping Brevard County Emergency Operations by staffing the Emergency Support Function 15 (volunteers and donations) when the EOC is activated due to a local disaster. This partnership began during the 2004 hurricane season when United Way stepped in to bolster staffing at 2-1-1 Brevard, helped staff water and ice sites and addressed long-term recovery (LTR) needs.
Following Hurricane Matthew United Way coordinated with faith-based volunteers to provide immediate help securing tarps and removing trees and other debris.
When Minnie, 58 of Cocoa and a longtime volunteer at a Senior Lunch site had a large tree down in her yard, Baptist Disaster Relief was on site to help her with removal. Thanks to all the volunteers who help!
Another life changed thanks to you!
Grandma Joan Story
Grandma Joan worked hard all her life running a small business and raising a family. As the owner of an art gallery in Brevard, she would make frequent trips to remote areas of the Southwest United States to purchase art and jewelry from Native American artists. She was self-sufficient and resourceful, managing to drive her trusty old Nissan cross country until it had more than 200,000 miles on it. She took chances and never thought she’d live to be 80. Now 81, she says the guardian angel that rode along with her must be shocked that she’s still around.
Joan’s health has declined as she has aged, and she now receives Meals on Wheels through Aging Matters in Brevard. She called one day to ask if we had any idea how much it means to her to get a hot lunch every day. After a lifetime of hard work and independence, she finds herself unable to shop for or fix her own food. Her Social Security check is not enough to cover all her monthly expenses and she sometimes resorts to eating Cheerios to stretch her food out over the weekends. She says the nutrition she gets from the daily meals, along with the visits from the volunteers who bring them, contribute to her longevity and ability to stay in her home.
Meals on Wheels, funded in part by the United Way of Brevard, helps Joan keep her pride and her self-sufficiency. In her words, “I cannot thank you all enough for what you do”.