Success Stories

Elijah and Aleya

Aleya 2021At 17, Aleya had already lived a hard life. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away and her father had problems with substance abuse. When she became pregnant, she knew that she wanted a better life for her son Elijah.

Aleya is determined to break the cycle of poverty and provide Elijah with the stability she did not experience as a child.
That’s where the DOCK, one of United Way of Brevard’s funded partner agencies, comes in. The DOCK contributes to family stability and the economic vitality of the residents of the Booker T. Washington neighborhood. It provides a safe gathering place and nurturing center for neighborhood youth after school and during the summer – the hours when they are most likely to get in trouble. Staff and volunteers emphasize academic achievement and model and encourage healthy life choices, with a goal of encouraging youth to see themselves as productive citizens in the future.
Elijah attends the DOCK every day after school where he participates in educational opportunities and character building. He’s a smart, cheerful, 8-year-old who’s making all B’s on his report card at school.

With the encouragement of the DOCK staff, Aleya has started college at Eastern Florida State College. She is striving to raise Elijah as a good man who is spiritually fit. She is determined to be the involved parent that she never had.

See more about Elijah and Aleya: 


ALBY


Alby 2021A chance accident changed the course of Alby’s life forever.

At 17, Alby had his whole life in front of him. He was about to be a senior in high school and had plans to join the Coast Guard. All of that changed in an instant when Alby was hit by a drunk driver.
The accident caused Alby’s truck to flip violently, severing his arm and ultimately landing on his head and causing a traumatic brain injury. Alby spent the next year in a coma, and the prognosis was dim.
His mom, Pattie, never gave up hope. For nearly 20 years, Pattie has provided his care at home. She’s tried a few group homes along the way, but nothing came close to the loving care she could provide until two years ago when she found Bridges and their residential group home, Springwood. And it couldn’t have come at a better time as Pattie is battling lung cancer.

Through the support of Bridges’ Adult Day training program, Alby has grown into an active participant in classroom activities. In fact, with help, Alby is now able to feed himself, fold towels and even move his wheelchair with his feet.

According to Alby’s mom, “Bridges has helped me too. They have taught me how to step back and encourage Alby to become more independent. I never thought he would be able to do so much.”

By supporting United Way of Brevard, you help to improve Alby’s quality of life. Each day brings new hope that he will continue to gain independence. It also ensures that Alby will always be cared for and have a place to call home.

KATIE

Katie 2021Katie had a whirlwind courtship with her husband. They quickly moved in together, but it wasn’t too long before her husband became controlling and emotionally abusive. The abuse started with yelling and screaming and slowly escalated.
She was concerned when he began demanding to drop her off and pick her up at work. When it progressed to him suggesting she should quit her job because it was interfering with their marriage, she knew she was in trouble.
“That day, I told him I would not quit my job. He became very angry and just kept yelling at me and shaking his fists at me. I knew I had to leave. I was scared.” Luckily Katie had the support of her friends and was able to move out and begin the process of starting over.
However, moving out only escalated her husband’s anger. He found out where she was living and began stalking her. That’s also when the abuse became physical. Everything came to a head the night he pulled her out of the car and threw her up against it.
When she started to run, he tackled her to the ground. Her saving grace was that she had been on the phone with a friend who called the police. As the sirens started to blare, he grabbed her face and kissed her, telling her, “I will forgive you for this, and I still love you.”
Katie finally had enough. The Women’s Center helped her develop a safety plan and file an injunction for protection. Katie is now divorced and living on her own with the confidence that she can support herself.
According to Katie, “Your help, support and guidance was essential for me to get through my time of need. While I was broken and lost, the Women’s Center took the emotion out of it and helped me move forward. I know this happens to so many women. Thank you for being there.”
Every 43 minutes someone fears for their life as they suffer abuse at the hands of someone they once trusted and loved. In 2019 there were 3,626 reports of domestic violence in Brevard resulting in eight murders.

Rose 2021ROSE

Rose is a retired art teacher. At 92, she wants to remain surrounded by the things she knows and recognizes. Three times a week, Kimberly with Aging Matters visits Rose to help with laundry, changing the sheets, personal non-medical care like a hot shower and light meal preparation. This support helps Rose stay comfortable in her home.

Last year alone, Aging Matters thanks to your generosity provided 42,358 hours of homemaking and personal care assistance for seniors like Rose.


CATHY

Cathy 2021Cathy is a veteran who served during Vietnam. She now struggles with COPD and has limited mobility. She no longer drives but still needs to get out to her doctor appointments and the grocery store. She is so happy to receive free  transportation for these important errands. According to Cathy, “John has been driving me for eight years now. If I didn’t have him, I don’t know how I would survive. I get so scared when he must go out of town. I worry that I won’t make it to my appointments. He is a godsend.”

The Senior TransServe program provided 1,354 rides for medical reasons alone in 2020. This service is critical to seniors like Cathy. In Brevard, 144,345 people are over age 60 and over 25% live alone. Many of our local seniors are isolated due to lack of mobility, memory issues or little to no family living here.

Thanks to your support our local at-risk seniors can safely stay in their homes where they are most comfortable.



Michael

Michael's Story

Estranged from his family, Michael, a former marine who was medically discharged, found himself homeless and living on the streets in Brevard. Being given just a 10% disability rating, equating to around $130 a month, he was forced to couch surf, sleep on the beach or streets - all doing so with considerable pain from his physical disability.
It was an all-time low point in his life, where he didn’t care about his unkempt appearance or personal health. He relied on the beachside food pantry for food and supplies. One morning while at the food pantry in Indialantic, Mike was approached by one of National Veterans Homeless Support Search & Rescue Team Members who asked if he was a veteran and explained a local housing program. Mike was a little skeptical at first but decided to check it out.
Within a week, he was off the streets and into a transitional housing program. During the next seven months, he was able to completely rebuild and transform his life. Michael worked to get a better disability rating and pay back the child support he owed, which allowed him to reacquire his driver’s license. He was also able to get the necessary treatment to help lessen the burden of his physical disabilities from the VA.
Thanks to the therapeutic months spent, he was able to re-join the community and more importantly, his family. Mike and his estranged wife have since reconciled and are currently living in a beautiful home together with their two children. Since then, Mike has become a National Veterans Homeless Support volunteer and hopes to be able to help other veterans that were in his same situation.
Michael may not have made it off the streets without the support of National Veterans Homeless Support programs. Your support makes it possible to change lives like Mike’s. Thank you.

James

James' Story

It was just an observation of a neat looking uniform from a peer that led James to discover Boy Scouts. And maybe the discovery came to James when he needed it the most. He was struggling in school as the new kid who had just moved into a local shelter with his single mom, who was in the process of job searching after leaving an abusive, drug-addicted husband.
James had no friends. His clothes were old, and his shoes certainly weren’t brand name. Overall, he felt unhappy with life. But from his curiousity, James learned about the exciting opportunities at Cub Scouts from his new peer Fred.
While James thought it sounded fun, he assumed it wasn’t free and his mother couldn’t afford one of those neat uniforms for him. He told Fred he wasn’t interested and that it sounded stupid, but Fred didn’t take offense. Instead, he kept telling James about the fun activities they did. James eventually told Fred he just couldn’t afford it.
Fred’s reaction? Come with me anyway. Turns out through United Way funding, James could participate.
James never missed a Scout meeting after joining. It helped him all around, too. His reading improved, his behavior was better at school, and most importantly—he was happy.
James eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. He then attended the police academy and became a Sheriff’s Deputy. According to James, he’ll never forget that if not for Scouting, he would’ve ended up in trouble with the law, rather than helping people. Scouting gave him a safe place to go and a purpose. Your contributions give youth like James a purpose to succeed. Thank you.

Tracy

Tracy's Story

In May of 1990, a 29-year-old woman made a visit to the Brevard Achievement Center (BAC) with a desire to learn lifelong skills. Tracy was born with PKU disease, a condition which resulted in developmental delays. But that didn’t stop her. For nearly three decades, she has been a dedicated participant in Brevard Achievement Center’s Adult Day Training Program and the Supported Living Program. Here, she invested herself in learning life skills such as self-care, self-advocacy and basic job and computer skills.
So what was Tracy’s ultimate goal? Working in the field of childcare for her community. Her next step to achieve this goal was gaining acceptance into the BAC Industry Readiness Training Program. This multidisciplinary, structured program is designed to offer individuals with differing abilities the opportunity to transition into community employment.
Her hard work paid off when she was offered an On-The-Job Training opportunity at Parkhurst Academy, a faith-based private school in Melbourne. Even though Parkhurst did not have any open positions that would be a good fit for her, they made the decision to create a new position where she could excel.
Tracy was ecstatic to accept the permanent community-based employment as the official School Aide. She currently works 15 hours a week, 5 hours per day for 3 days. Some of her responsibilities include supporting students’ safety
by helping in the car loop for drop-off, assisting children during lunch and classroom activities and other deep
cleaning duties.
Without your support, Tracy may not have been able to land her job at Parkhurst Academy. Every step of Tracy’s Triumphs are supported by your help. Thank you.

Zamari

Zamari's Story

“The DOCK taught me to be a better man; to do the right thing when no one is watching.” Zamari grew up in Booker T. Washington neighborhood, an impoverished community notorious for criminal activity, drug use and a high dropout rate among teens. But he wasn’t going to be just another unfortunate statistic.
At 7 years old, Zamari began attending the DOCK. He recalls many fond memories of his participation every day after school and during the summer, until his high school athletic schedule demanded more of his time.
His feelings of academic importance were instilled there. “I knew I had to keep my grades up so I could get into a good school, get an education, and make something of myself after college,” Zamari said. At the DOCK, Zamari attended educational field trips, such as a visit to the Barrier Island Sanctuary where he first realized a world of opportunity beyond the Booker T. Washington neighborhood.
Zamari also credits the DOCK for his character development, teaching him to surround himself with the right people and of the same mindset. “I don’t know where I’d be without the DOCK,” Zamari said.
Now a cornerback for Georgia Tech, his words seem to ring true. Even off the field, Zamari is flourishing academically and studying business administration.
Without your help, Zamari may not have had positive experiences and opportunities for academic excellence. Your donations change lives and strengthen communities like the Booker T. Washington neighborhood. Thank you.

Success_Patrick2019

Patrick's Story

Patrick’s life changed, thanks to you!

Patrick400.jpgWhen Patrick moved to Brevard with his family seven years ago, he was almost entirely non-verbal and had trouble making eye contact with even his peers. Patrick is on the autism spectrum and is challenged by significant developmental disabilities.

Patrick began attending programs at Brevard Achievement Center where he was exposed to life skills training, computer classes, empowerment programs and performing arts. His teachers and mentors saw him improve so dramatically that they advocated for him to begin training for possible employment opportunities. During his vocational training, Patrick and his father joined BAC staff in Tallahassee to advocate for himself and his peers with our legislators.

The first time Patrick approached a state representative, looked him in the eye, shook his hand and told him his name in a clear, confident voice, his father became so emotionally overwhelmed he had to step from the room. He told BAC staff that he never would have thought Patrick capable of this level of interaction and professionalism. BAC had truly helped his son reach levels well beyond what he thought possible.
This year, Patrick achieved a milestone that most of us take for granted but that his family never believed possible for him - he accepted a job in the community. Patrick works for a local law firm, providing data input of technical legal findings into specialized software. He eats lunch with his co co-workers who joke with him; he asks others about their day; he holds eye contact when someone is talking with him. He is empowered and successful at work! 


Success_Alex2019

Alex's Story

Alex’s life changed, thanks to you!

Alex 400Growing up, Alex was unsupported at home. Her mom, an alcoholic who was also addicted to pills, struggled to provide for many of her basic needs and was little in the way of a positive influence. Despite these challenges, Alex was extremely motivated in school. She was an honor student and worked hard to maintain her grades. She frequently stayed late at school when she needed help or tutoring, even though it meant missing the bus and walking the 5 miles home.

After graduating, she was determined to find a job and become self-sufficient so she began working as a CNA. Finances were tight, but she was surviving. It was when she had her son that things began to fall apart. “I felt like every month I was having to choose between paying rent and getting food for us to eat.” She struggled to keep her head above water and pay her bills, but she knew she needed to make a change. When she began looking for a roommate to share expenses, she found Brevard Rescue Mission (BRM).

BRM provided her with the stability and foundation she’d been craving her whole life. “For the first time in my life, I felt like I had a Mom. I was always so afraid to show anyone how alone I was, but I needed to become my own person and learn how to adult.” Through counseling and case management, Alex learned the tools she needed to create stability and a better life for herself and her family. BRM taught her how to plan and budget and manage her finances. They also helped her to set goals and plan a career path that included benefits and better wages – things she never learned from her mom.

Alex now works a high-tech job, with plans to continue her education and pursue an engineering degree. She hasn’t forgotten the help from BRM. In fact, she frequently goes back to mentor and give hope to the current clients. Thanks to you, this young family - Alex, Kyle and their two children are now living on their own and well on their way to long-term self-sufficiency. With a just a little help from their community, they are building the foundation for their family that Alex never had.



Success_Daisha2019

Daisha's Story

Daisha’s life changed, thanks to you!

Daisha 400You first met Daisha six years ago as a member of Club Esteem, a partner agency that inspires youth to embrace higher education.
Back in high school Daisha understood that education was a necessary building block for a successful life. As a high school junior, she started mentoring younger kids at Club Esteem. Making a little bit of money and tutoring elementary and middle school kids sounded like a winning combination to Daisha. “I always wanted to go to college and Club Esteem helped make my dreams a reality.”
The staff encourages and supports all students in pursuing higher education. They stay on top of teens to fill out college applications, go on campus visits, and give them the resources to get volunteer hours and letters of recommendation. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family, and I know education is the way for me to break the chain of poverty,” says Daisha. “I’m the first in my family to attend college.” Thanks to scholarships, her tuition costs were fully covered.
"I went off to FAU in the fall of 2013 and I graduated with a bachelor in health sciences and I graduated with honors there. I had my gold cord. And then I attended UCF where I graduated with my masters with honors. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for rooting for me and thank you for making the resources available so I was able to reach my goals,” says Daisha.
 
 



Success_Stephanie2018

Another life changed, thanks to you!

Stephanie's Story

StephanieStephanie’s mom couldn’t take care of her and was in and out of the picture as she grew up. When Stephanie had babies of her own she wanted to do better for them so she enrolled in United Way’s Healthy Families program. She knew the program would give her the tools to be a great mom, unlike her own. What she didn’t expect was how her Family Support Worker (FSW) would help her transform her whole life.
Stephanie worked for a local manufacturer doing soldering but for low wages and no benefits. She struggled to pay all of the bills for herself and her two kids, though she lived in affordable Section 8 housing, she feared for her kids’ safety in her neighborhood that was plagued by crime and frequent shootings. With her FSW’s encouragement, she started applying for better work and was hired by Harris Corporation, for better pay and full benefits. She moved into slightly better housing but still wanted to improve her situation. She has always been motivated to “do more”, an idea she wants to instill in her children as well. Again, with her FSW’s support, she applied to Habitat for Humanity, went through their approval process and is now a proud homeowner.
With the support of Healthy Families, Stephanie moved out of Section 8 housing, got a new job with benefits, became a homeowner, and is motivated to live her best life and is confident she can do better for her family. She says, “It’s important to believe in yourself and Healthy Families helps you believe in yourself.”

 

 



Success_Tina2018

Another life changed, thanks to you!
Tina's Story


Tina is an intelligent, strong, beautiful woman and mother. Loving her career and happily raising her daughter, the last thing she worried about was the new man in her life. He was charming and attentive. Their relationship progressed and everything appeared to be falling into place. Once Tina and her daughter moved in with him they’d argue occasionally but then, who doesn’t argue? But the arguing became more frequent and he began pushing her around physically and emotionally. Pushing led to hitting…and punching. What began as his concern for her became controlling isolation. She started to believe the awful things he yelled at her. She felt like she couldn’t make it on her own. Tina crumpled into pieces feeling like “he took everything from me.”
Most of the abuse happened out of sight from Tina’s daughter but the bruises, the bare scalp where hair had been, the black eye couldn’t be hidden. The line was crossed for Tina’s daughter when she found her mom with a concussion; her daughter called the cops. The sheriff’s office gave Tina information about the Women’s Center. Doctors told her she was lucky to be alive.
Through programs at both the Women’s Center and Serene Harbor, Tina has her life back. Counseling helped her regain her self confidence and taught her the early warning signs of abuse so she can “make sure this never happens to me again.” Today Tina is in a great place in her life. For those in a similarly abusive situation, she wants them to know “to get out now. There are resources out there. You will end up dead if you don’t get out.”
 


Success_MaryTony2017

Another life changed, thanks to you!
Mary and Tony's Story

MaryTonyThere 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 knee deep full of mud. Mary came outside to find him 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 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.


 

Success_Karen2017

Another life changed, thanks to you!
Karen's Story

KarenWhen 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!
Big Guy, Mimi and Regan's Story


Success_Frank2017

Another life changed, thanks to you!
Frank's Story


FrankFrank 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.”
 


Success_LeslieRebecca2016

Another life changed, thanks to you!
Rebecca and Leslie's Story

RebeccaLeslieLeslie 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.


ECM_Oct16C

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.

Minnie.jpg
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!


Success_Joan2016

Another life changed thanks to you!
Grandma Joan Story

GrandmaJoan200.jpgGrandma 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”.