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One Thursday you’re having lunch at home before your evening shift, and the power goes out. You realize that the bill needed to be paid nearly a week ago. You then attempt to get in your car and drive to the nearest utilities company to discuss your options, but your engine starts smoking. Frightened and annoyed, you check your account to figure out how to split your funds between your car and your electricity, but there’s hardly any there to begin with. Then you receive an unexpected phone call from your job telling you that your pay will decrease drastically, due to an unexpected, worldwide pandemic. Everyone in your household is depending on you, but you just aren’t sure how you’re going to fix it all this time. For some, this is the most severe possible outcome. For many of our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family it’s a reality.

Sonya Smesta, a hard-working, single parent, had no idea what she would be up against only months ago. The year 2020 began like any other—visitors and locals busying themselves with Savannah’s many New Year festivities. Life went on as usual for Sonya, as with many others. Covid-19 had been a mere story that people heard in passing. How could anyone predict the impact that it would have on thousands of people? In the following months, Sonya would discover the impact to be a major one, indeed.

Sonya found herself in a difficult situation when she’d heard the unfortunate news of her venue shutting down. For several years, her days revolved around serving numerous guests at a popular Savannah eatery, cleaning several other restaurants, and raising her family. However, her admirable work ethic was not enough to keep the doors open in the midst of a pandemic. With a rapid decrease in hungry guests, her employers were forced to dismiss Sonya as well as many others almost indefinitely. In addition to her sudden unemployment, her car broke down—leaving her feeling utterly helpless and alone. She had no idea where the financial assistance would come from. “Reaching out to someone for financial help is not exactly easy,” said Sonya. “I have a lot of pride.”

Fortunately, with the help of United Way of Coastal Empire, Sonya was able to put her worries to rest. She placed a phone call to United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline, where she was able to receive funds in order to pay her rent.

“Everything was done with kindness and compassion. They treated me with such integrity…I found relief, and a lot of the burden was lifted quite quickly,” said Sonya, graciously.

We are so proud to help out those in need. We are happy that Sonya was provided with the assistance that she needed in order to breathe a little easier. We seek to aid residents like Sonya because United Way believes that a little help goes a long way. In times like this, we want to be the support that you never thought you needed.

-Malarie Williams

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