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American writer, Johnathon Raymond, once said, “You can’t know what you don’t know. You can’t know about things you have yet to discover.” Ultimately, we can’t know what it feels like to truly be someone else. A struggle is uniquely connected to each individual person, and the ways in which we deal with our struggles are also unique. Denise Flowers, a resilient mother of two, silently carried the weight of her struggle for some time before she eventually learned to deal with it—positively.

Denise had grown accustomed to hiding in dark spaces. The less you were able to see, the better. Several years ago, her home erupted into flames—with one of her twin boys inside. Fortunately, Denise was able to rescue her son, but she was unable to do so unharmed. She suffered severe bodily burns, which would lead to a major change in self-perception. Over time, her feelings regarding her outward appearance spiraled into what seemed to be an endless cycle of despair. In an attempt to shield herself from the rejection of her looks, she shut off all contact to the world. Her social life was nearly nonexistent. The prospect of a job with open access to people was off limits. She had deemed herself as being unattractive, so much so that she’d lost her will to dress fashionably.

However, Denise would eventually grow to love herself all over again with the help of Ready2CONNECT—a non-profit partner of United Way of the Coastal Empire. When she received a phone call from Destiny Bradshaw, Executive Director of Ready2CONNECT, Denise had no idea that she would be receiving the opportunity of a lifetime. In fact, she was so unaware that she arrived to her meeting with Bradshaw unsuitably dressed. “I had no idea that I was going in for a job interview; I came in wearing a red sweat suit…but I was on-time.” Denise was on-time, indeed. Bradshaw had all the tools readily available for Denise to walk into her best self.

“In the interview, I was told that I would be training here, at Ready2CONNECT, for a position as a receptionist. Ms. Bradshaw took me to the clothes closet to pick out professional attire to change into so that I could begin work immediately.”

At Ready2CONNECT, participants are provided with a three-month, self-development program and access to community resources and partnerships that aim to promote educational, financial, and emotional wellness. When Bradshaw came across Denise’s email address at the top of her resume, “[email protected]”, she knew that Denise would benefit from the program’s supportive plans for reinvention.

In her testimony, Denise said, “Ms. Bradshaw told me to attend the program so that I could get help with my resume, create a social presence with a different email address, receive a professional makeover, and go through mock interviews.”

As of now, Denise is excelling in her newfound confidence. She is absolutely wonderful. “My circumstances gave me the chance to attend different workshops for handling money and budgeting. I also learned how to deal with my emotional traumas through counseling. Everyone needs help with situations,” said Denise. A steadily growing flower, she has maintained employment for months now. United Way is forever grateful for Denise and her courage to rise above her struggle. While we may not always know how it feels, we are always here to help. Because of our non-profit partners, like Ready2CONNECT, we are able to bring light to those in dark spaces.

“I am very happy for this program… I will remember this. BELIEVE YOU CAN AND YOU WILL”, said Denise.


On behalf of everyone at United Way, you are Beautiful, Denise, and we love you.

-Malarie Williams

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