Bonnie makes an appearance every spring wrapped up beneath a bundle of blankets that shelter her against the night, the wind and the streets where she lives. She sleeps, eats and reads her Bible perched atop a big suitcase, which carries everything she owns. She lives there, on that city sidewalk, spring through fall. She only leaves to use the public facilities across the street. She feels more comfortable on the street than at a shelter. She speaks of a family but prefers talking to strangers. This has been Bonnie’s life for over 10 years. She’s not mentally able to get a job so she relies on the kindness of others and gratefully accepts whatever they deliver … food, blankets, coffee … spring through fall until the harsh Cleveland winter forces her to move elsewhere.
Casey works very hard for her money. She gets up at 4:30 am every morning to catch two buses to work. She lives alone and pretty much depends on herself, although her family and a neighbor help out when they can. Bonnie is one of the “working poor” and close to retirement, which will have its own challenges. But for now, she carefully budgets for rent and utilities stretching what’s left to buy food to last for two weeks. She has to be careful what she eats because she was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Her job doesn’t pay enough to afford medical or dental insurance. However, she is one of the fortunate ones to have her diabetes managed through North Coast Health.
Tom, Jody and Roy always come to the monthly community meal together. They arrive early to get a table and wait patiently to get their meal. Sometimes there are leftovers so they bring extra bags to carry the containers home. After the meal, a bag of groceries is given out. The trio likes to trade with each other for some of their favorite food items. They are the foodies of their community meal. They know the hours of all community meals in their neighborhood, as well as the hunger center in their neighborhood. They rely on their community and each other. For the moment, their food survival is secure.
Although these aren’t their real names, they are real people who live right here in Greater Cleveland. They, and others in similar circumstances, are among the most vulnerable in our community who could easily fall through the cracks if others didn’t look out for them. And by others, I mean you, me and United Way of Greater Cleveland.
So why invest in someone else when it might not necessarily affect you or me? Because it does affect us all. Greater Cleveland is our community. We live here with our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers; we build, work and shop here. But what makes it a thriving community — what gives it life — is the unity within it. If we are going to invest in our community we need to invest in all of its citizens.
The late teen poet and author Mattie Stepanek said, “Unity is strength … when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
Look at what we have achieved already through the dollars you contribute and the programs United Way funds. Programs like:
- Patient Assistance Programs (North Coast Health) which dispenses free medications and supplies to the low-income uninsured.
- The Integrated Primary and Behavioral Homeless Health Outreach (Care Alliance Health Center and Frontline Services) which provides physical and behavioral health care to those living on the streets.
- And hunger centers like Lakewood Community Service Center which offers emergency food assistance.
So imagine, then, what we can achieve when we rally together as a people and as an organization and pool our resources and individual talents to help each other.
Our most vulnerable citizens need advocates, they need a voice and a helping hand. They need to be able to rely on their community to be there in times of crisis. For some, life is very difficult, be it a job loss, a physical disability, mental illness or natural disaster; life changing events that could happen to any one one of us.
We here at United Way of Greater Cleveland are committed to not only reaching out our hand to those in need, but strengthening our community in unity with you.
View the complete list of United Way funded Community Impact programs.