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Coming Full Circle

Dottie Carswell worked hard her entire life. A single mother of a college student, her years of employment at a major hospital in Savannah came with long hours and a lot of dedication and sacrifice. As a boy, Dottie’s son attended a Salvation Army after-school program funded by United Way of the Coastal Empire, and she saw the difference it made. So when her work held annual donation drives for local nonprofit organizations and a workplace giving campaign, Dottie always selected to give to United Way, even when she changed employers.

Dottie faced great uncertainty as to what was ahead with the Covid-19 pandemic. As time went on and only essential businesses could remain open, she was eventually laid off in July. Dottie had to adjust to a situation that was entirely new — and scary.

“I had never been laid off. I have always worked hard and paid my bills on time,” she said.

After a month went by, Dottie knew she had to act fast. With household bills looming and a mortgage payment to make, Dottie was concerned about meeting her responsibilities. She saw on the news that there were programs for mortgage and utility help through 211, an assistance phone line funded by United Way. And that one phone call made a world of difference.

Dottie submitted an application and communicated with 211 case managers to understand how United Way would help pay the bills. “The people at United Way were absolutely wonderful. They explained the documents needed, helped guide me through the entire process, and they kept in touch to make sure I was taken care of, and everything I submitted was in order,” she continued.

United Way 211, funded through the Community Fund, is a resource for services and programs that help provide a safety net to the community, such as providing food and shelter. For Dottie, it was three months of assistance to help pay her mortgage and electric bills. This support is what she needed to get back on her feet. Fortunately for Dottie, she received a job offer and started working again in December.

“An experience like this – when you’ve been on the other side of the work of United Way – it just makes you look at things differently. I’ve never been through anything like that before, and I was so blessed to be able to get the help that I needed to get through that tough time,” she says.

The help she received also removed the stress and anxiety that could make starting a new job that much harder. By the time she was working again, her mind was clear, and her bills were paid.

Dottie’s story had truly come full circle. Her son went to a Salvation Army after-school program because she was a working mother. She was grateful for that, so she always kept United Way in mind during donation drives. Dottie worked steadily for three decades, and through no fault of her own, needed a helping hand during a difficult time for everyone. And United Way was there for her as a safety net and a pathway for upward mobility.

“Now, I will always give,” said Dottie.

Giving to United Way’s Community Fund helps many people in unique circumstances. When we all help each other, we all move Forward United.

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