Shown above: Participants of the Desert Sun Community Kitchen program along with Executive Director, Marieze Tarr (far left)

Below are a just a few of the local impact stories from the United Way funded programs.

Jessica’s Story

A local community kitchen teaches cooking skills to a single mom

For the past 8 years, a local family has been accessing the Community Kitchen, a United Way funded program in Oliver. Before this, Jessica had trouble feeding her 5 children. She felt isolated and vulnerable as a stay at home mom. At the Community Kitchen, she learned how to budget and how to cook. She has learned the art of canning, making jam and salsa.

The Kitchen has taught her to cook nutritious meals for her family and how to provide fruit for her family in the winter. She learned to cook with zucchini which she grew herself in the community garden. She has commented on how much joy the Kitchen has brought to her. She felt like this was her second family.

She is now teaching others, including her own children, the art of cooking and canning which ensures greater food security for her own family and also the community at large.

Dawn’s Story

How a local women’s shelter changed her life

Four years ago, Dawn was “very broken” and found herself at a local women’s shelter, a funded partner of United Way, after leaving a toxic, abusive relationship.

Thanks to one-on-one counselling with one of our staff, Dawn got the support she needed to move forward with a new life free of abuse. She also began attending weekly group counselling sessions, and says it truly changed her life.

“I feel like I have found a new family,” says Dawn of her experience at the shelter. “The Shelter has provided so much support for me, and the other women have become like sisters; we all lift each other up. It is so nice that we have a safe place to share our stories.”

Dawn is not alone. The women in the program say participating in group has been invaluable. They learn new skills and develop a healthier perspective on what qualities make for a good relationship, and they develop valuable personal connections that last a lifetime.

Suzanne’s Story

How home support impacts the life of a person with mobility issues

Suzanne is a gifted writer, crafter and public speaker. With her quick wit and natural abilities, she is a personable and interesting lady who is active in her church and community. Suzanne also happens to be disabled. Diabetes has challenged her vision, mental wellbeing and mobility. In recent past she has undergone a number of amputations and requires the use of a wheelchair.

Upon referral in 2015, Hands in Service came alongside Suzanne to lighten the load of housework and provide accompaniment through their Energetic Hands program. Later, through a partnership with a local high school, “Youth Action Teams“ of grade 11 and 12 students were sent to her home bi-weekly to provide an hour of housecleaning. During these visits, Suzanne would gladly share and joke with the students and team leader, graciously welcoming them into her home.

Suzanne has benefited from other services provided by Hands in Service including Living Salad planters, a donated portable community garden and food security project that replenishes with salad ingredients throughout the summer months, and Christmas gifts supplied and delivered by volunteers.

This service of Suzanne has been a blessing for all involved. Suzanne has shared that the partnership with Hands in Service has allowed her to maintain her apartment with greater dignity, and that without it, things would get increasingly disheveled and she feels that her depression would worsen.

Suzanne has been an incredible ambassador of Hands in Service, providing her talents for promotional and fundraising initiatives, as well as offering to deliver a Toastmasters speech about her experience with the organization. She credits the practical and emotional support of Hands in Service to the lessening of her depression, particularly in the long winter months. She attests that, `Since Hands in Service has been offering me regular service, I have noticed much fewer depressive episodes. I am also aware that my medication dosage has decreased from 30 pills per day to 25“.

Without the support of United Way, this community impact would not be possible. Suzanne`s story demonstrates how impactful simple acts of support can be, as well as the power of community partnership.

Note: the images and names have been changed to protect the identity of these clients. 

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