United for Families: A beacon of hope for families in need

Many factors can upend the well-being of a family and send their lives into disarray – the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, a severe illness, rising costs of groceries, basic necessities and more. During times of despair and vulnerability, families may need someone to catch them when they fall. That is where United Way’s United for Families (UFF) initiative comes to the rescue.

UFF assists families experiencing a crisis or on the verge of destabilization by providing individualized case management and emergency financial assistance to help stop evictions, restore families to self-sufficiency and ensure kids stay in school. United Way is fortunate to have some of our nonprofit partner agencies join us in implementing this initiative, including Riverbend Family Ministries.

Riverbend Family Ministries focuses on providing collaborative and holistic efforts to help children and families who’ve experienced trauma, most often due to violence, addiction, poverty or homelessness. They began implementing our UFF initiative to further their efforts to help families move from crisis to stabilization.

UFF Director with Riverbend Family Ministries Tara Schultz said the initiative is a valuable tool in helping them fulfill their mission to the community.

“Most of the people are in crisis mode when they come to us, they don’t know what to do and they’ve lost hope,” said Tara. “With United for Families, we try to make sure that people feel welcomed, comfortable, not judged and that we’re here to help. We try to treat people like family when they come to us.”

Lending a helping hand to a family in need

Sarah* was working for a childcare agency and thoroughly enjoyed working with kids. Her job gave her the opportunity to provide for herself and her family while doing what she loved, but after just four months on the job, she received devastating news that would send her life into a tailspin.

She was told that the agency was making budget cuts and that she would be laid off in 30 days. Being a single mom with no means of income, Sarah was fearful of the struggles that could lie ahead for her and her family.

“It was terrifying,” said Sarah. “I’m a single mom and I wasn’t prepared for that, and then during that time, I found out that I was pregnant. So, I just felt like my whole world got flipped upside down.”

Sarah began searching for work, but after being unemployed for over a month with no job offers, mounting unpaid bills, and a baby on the way, she knew it was time to reach out for help.

Sarah’s daughter receives therapy services through Riverbend Family Ministries and one day during her therapy session, Sarah mentioned her situation. From the very beginning, they showed her care, compassion and offered to help her in any way they could. From that point on, she knew she had an organization in her corner that would be willing to go above and beyond to make sure she had all of her needs met.

“Her therapist was telling me about some of the services they had and I thought about using them, but I was still trying to maintain things on my own,” said Sarah. “I was sitting in the lobby one day and the director walked through the office and I think she could tell that something was off with me. She was like, ‘Can we talk?’  And as we began to talk, I just began to break down and cry because of everything I was facing.”

Riverbend Family Ministries enrolled Sarah in UFF and began addressing her problems individually. She received financial assistance with her utility bills, rent payments and help with her job search.

After enduring months of financial hardship and unemployment, Sarah was finally caught up on her bills and found another job working at a community outreach center. She resumed doing the work she loved – working with kids and helping them reach their full potential.

In her new role, she gets to help children with social and emotional well-being, STEM education and more.

As Sarah enjoys a debt-free life and a stable job that she loves, she reflects on how grateful she is to have found an organization that made her feel welcomed and unashamed to ask for help. Riverbend Family Ministries picked her up when she was down and the graciousness of their staff along with the effectiveness of UFF is something that she’ll never forget.

“They were able to give me that assurance and comfort in knowing that they can see me working hard as a mom, but they could also see that my spirits were broken and they wanted to do everything they could to lift those spirits and get me out of that rut,” said Sarah. “They didn’t see me as someone that’s needy, but as someone that works hard and they really wanted to help me. It’s been a blessing.”

*Name changed for privacy

Take action now:

  • Learn more about our United for Families initiative.
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Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries

Rodney Humphries is the Communications Specialist for United Way of Greater St. Louis and a proud graduate of Webster University where he developed his passion for writing. In college, he combined his love for writing and sports, serving as the primary sports writer for his school newspaper while also developing his own sports blog. After graduating, he continued his love for writing as he served as a freelance writer for various publications. Rodney continues to be a fan of Webster athletics, you will often see him sitting courtside at a lot of their basketball games.