Fighting for a life worth living

In and out of jobs and dealing with addiction, Angel decided it was time to take her life into her own hands and create a better future for herself by starting over. She moved to a different town with her dad so they could escape their harmful lifestyle. Things were looking up until her dad broke his back and accidentally overdosed on pain meds. Angel came home and found her father, her only support system, had died.


That was the moment she knew she was going to do whatever it took to escape her previous life and make her dad proud.


“I want him to look down and see what I’ve accomplished in my life, and see that he raised a wonderful little girl and it’s okay,” she said, holding back tears. “I want him to know that it’s okay to go to heaven and that he doesn’t have to stay and watch me. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”


At the time of his passing, she was two years clean, but still struggling to make ends meet.


It was hard for her to ask for help, but she felt it was her responsibility to make sure she maintained her dad’s apartment to keep the memories of him safe. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing everything. She turned to a United Way supported agency to help her get back in school and her basic needs met.


She was later connected with EPIC, which helps low-income participants receive job skill training and work-based learning opportunities in high-demand fields. EPIC eventually led her to Southwestern Illinois College.


Prior to United Way’s help, Angel battled with depression most of her life, leaving her with inconsistent employment history and no positive vision for her future. When the EPIC program came into her life, everything changed.


“It’s a big relief. That’s for sure. It’s a feeling of accomplishment. At the same time, when you come from that, it feels like an accomplishment,” she says. “It felt like an accomplishment just to be able to buy my own soap and shampoo.”


Angel’s past is what motivates her to keep fighting for her future. She doesn’t want to live her former life ever again. She wants a reliable car, a stable life and to simply wake up every day, go to work and come home to her dog, Diamond, without having to worry about how she’s going to pay her bills.


“I’m willing to do whatever it takes for it,” she said.


A few years from now, Angel plans to have finished her associate degree and to be working as a programmer or in an apprenticeship program. One day, she hopes to own some property and build her own home.


“I’ve come from a long line of people helping me,” she says. “Somebody seeing in me that I have the strength and that I want better, and they gave me that opportunity and chance. That’s all it really takes is that one chance for somebody to just help you up. It really takes other people. You can’t do it by yourself. It’s just not possible.”

Read more stories of strength:


Latrina shows her strength in her commitment to filling the "mom" role for the youth she serves. And for "Momma Trina," that means work isn't just a nine-to-five gig.

Learn more about her impact.


When Anna was first diagnosed, it was hard to admit that she was different from her classmates. Now, her strength comes from knowing that she's not fighting alone.

See how she's grown.


Eva lives out her strength by speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves. With a perfect volunteer attendance record since 2016, she is truly an advocate for the seniors she serves.

Learn more about her legacy.


When teachers raised concerns about her daughter's performance in school, Monica didn't know what the future would hold. Her strength is simple: Don't let fear hold you back.

Read what happened next.


Fatama's family wasn't there for her during challenging times in her life, but she found her strength in a new support system through United Way. Now, she lives to encourage others at the same agency that helped her escape homelessness.

Read about her transformation.


As a single mom of three, everything falls on Heather – work, cooking, housework, keeping up with her kids' schooling and appointments. Her strength lies in knowing that she's not in it alone.

Read more.


Doshiemae knows what it's like to be homeless and hopeless. Now inspired to give back to others, she draws her strength from remembering those who helped her during her time of need.

See how far she's come.


For Amy, strength means taking risks to keep your family safe. When she took her kids and fled her abusive husband in 1999, she was met with the support she needed to recover and rebuild.

Read her story.