By Loni Nannini
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona is about empowering people—those who want to help and those who find themselves in need of it.
Amanda Stanley has been both. A recipient of the Single Mom Scholars program from Interfaith Community Services, she found herself unable to pay her bills in December 2019. United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona provided assistance with utilities.
“They really saved me. There were a few moments in the last couple months of school where I was going to quit because I couldn’t pay my utilities, and when you are two months from graduating, that is the last thing you want to do,” Stanley said.
The support from United Way of Tucson allowed Stanley to complete her degree at Pima Medical Institute, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Stanley’s career took a new turn and she accepted a temporary position with Interfaith Community Services. Now a senior case manager, she has worked directly with United Way to distribute $18,000 in grant funds for rent and utilities assistance to families in need during the pandemic.
“This has helped our clients tremendously,” Stanley said. “Most of them were unemployed or laid off due to the pandemic and some had to stay home with their children when schools closed. This money kept them in their homes and kept their kids in school, since homes were the schools.”
Stanley said that the efficiency and ease with which United Way responds during times of need is a blessing for the entire community. “I definitely encourage people to support the United Way. It is an amazing organization with simple processes for helping people,” she said.
Jeffrey and Sonia Schmitz
Jeffrey and Sonia Schmitz echo that sentiment. When Sonia moved to Tucson with Jeffrey from Rwanda four years ago and found they were expecting a child, she was concerned about being a new mom in a new country.
Enter Healthy Families, a program sponsored in part by United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, which has provided free in-home assistance and parenting education for the growing family.
“I was a new mom and had no family to help,” Sonia said. “Healthy Families came to our apartment and gave me information on what to expect for every trimester and techniques to help raise and play with the kids. United Way is important because it helps parents raise their kids in a safe and healthy way and helps keep families ‘United,’”
United Way has proven to be an ongoing resource for the Schmitz family, stepping in to help coordinate a scholarship for free childcare through Quality First while Sonia works toward attaining her degree as an LPN at Pima Community College.
“I gained a lot of support from United Way of Tucson—so much useful information for me and my family, but mostly now I have scholarships for my kids’ daycare,” she said. “Nursing school is intense, but I am happy my husband and I have daycare help so we won’t be worried about having to pay. I hope everyone will know about the many benefits we received from United Way and I hope they can receive help like we did. I would like to thank each and every person who is working hard for the best interests of our community. Thank you, United Way, for caring.”