"In 2011, I finally realized I was in an abusive relationship. My husband constantly told me that I was worthless, cursed at me, forbid me from spending time with my family, refused to care for our then three year old son, and repeatedly threatened me with physical violence. I made the decision to file for divorce because I did not want my son, Elijah, to grow up thinking that it was okay to be verbally and emotionally abusive to anyone, let alone someone you were supposed to love.
I informed my husband of my intention to leave him. He immediately emptied our join bank account and moved out. Just a short while later, I lost my job. I went from living in a two-income household to living with no income. In no time at all, shut off notices started arriving and we were quickly running out of food and other necessities. I did not have a strong support system since I was not allowed to develop any friendships while I was married. It got to the point that I was grocery shopping out of my mom's pantry in order to feed my toddler.
With the thought of becoming homeless in the middle of winter in Oregon looming in my mind, I made, what turned out to be, a life changing phone call. I called 211info, a information and referral program funded by the United Way of Lane County, and explained my situation. I was expecting the operator to refuse to help me because I was on the verge of homelessness due to filing for divorce; my soon-to-be ex-husband was quick to point out how horrible of a mother I was for putting our son in this predicament (though he refused to pay child support). Much to my surprise, the operator was very kind and understanding. She put me in contact with an agency that was able to provide Elijah and I with a food box and some household items; Elijah also received a toy from this agency and he has it on his bed to this day (he is now 7). I was also given the contact information for an agency that paid my utility bill and yet another agency who provided counseling to Elijah and I, free of charge.
I found out later that all of these agencies, as well as 211info, received funding from the United Way of Lane County. Since acquiring a new job, I have made it my personal mission to give back to the United Way in any way I can. Without the support from United Way's partner agencies, my toddler and I would likely have been hungry and homeless in the middle of an Oregon winter.
Over the last four years, I have donated my time to the United Way by speaking about my experience with the United Way and its partner agencies every chance I get. I also participate on the steering committee for the United Way of Lane County's Emerging Leader program, a group of professionals under the age of 40 who are focused on bettering the community through volunteering and advocating. In 2014, I remarried and we asked our wedding guests to support the United Way instead of buying us another toaster. My new husband and I also donate to the United Way at the Leadership Giving level ($1,000 or more in a calendar year).
I cannot think of a more deserving nonprofit. Thousands of people in my situation, or worse off, are helped each year by the United Way of Lane County and their partner agencies."