Steven Ziegler started having muscle twitches that he would later discover were life changing. At only 32, he was diagnosed with ALS.
On a bitter cold December day, the Meramec River seeped into 61-year-old Linda’s mobile home. Little did she know rain would fall until it met her chest, until her floors buckled and her paneling split, until her washer and freezer choked with water, until her memories and house of 13 years were destroyed.
More than 40 years of abuse left Yvette lost. She had never experienced a healthy relationship. With guidance from a United Way-supported agency, she found the strength the break the cycle of abuse and empower other women to do the same.
Sometimes little things make the biggest difference. Without a key, a car won’t start. Without a bit, a drill is ineffective. Darius had the tools necessary to succeed, but was missing a few crucial elements.
Dedication, determination and drive were vital to Tommy’s success in the boxing ring. With 289 career wins under his belt, it meant the difference between raising an arm in victory or being counted out. Tommy didn’t know it then, but those opponents were nothing compared to his current challenger.
Full-throttle. Pedal to the metal. For any 3-year-old, life can be a blur. This is more true for Charlie than for other children. But from his perspective, he’s just like any other kid his age. See how United Way is helping transform his perception into reality.
At 13, Bradley was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and learned at that young age the stigma associated with mental illness.
Christy grew up in a household surrounded by drugs, alcohol, crime and abuse, and became pregnant at 13. Instead of offering love and support, Christy’s mother abandoned her.
Betty came to United Way supported Crider Health Center fatigued and short of breath. Little did she know she had suffered a heart attack. “Had it not been for Crider, I probably wouldn’t be here today. They saved my life.”
Growing up, Candice’s mom wanted to provide every opportunity possible for her daughter to achieve higher education. With Candice’s drive and determination, United Way supported College Bound helped take her vision from a possibility to a reality.
As a single mom and full-time teacher, Lisa faced a difficult situation when she was told her 92-year-old mother Pat could no longer live alone. It wasn’t until she discovered United Way-supported St. John’s Community Care’s Adult Day Program that she saw a glimmer of hope.
When Justin was laid off, he struggled to find work and would have been evicted, along with his wife and three daughters, if United Way-supported Society of St. Vincent de Paul didn’t step in to help.
Preschoolers Brooke and Addi are best friends. Attending United Way-supported United Services for Children allows Addi to learn, grow and thrive alongside typically developing children.
Patti found United Way supported Provident’s Survivors of Suicide, a free, peer-facilitated support group that gave her the hope and healing she needed after her son took his own life.
When it came to light that at just 3 years old Alexis had suffered severe abuse in her biological home, her adoptive parents turned to a United Way funded agency for help. Through family-centered therapy, Alexis was given a second chance at life and, most importantly, a safe and loving forever home.
After eight years without an answer, 39-year-old DeVonshae was diagnosed with lupus. Through United Way supported Lupus Foundation of America, Heartland Chapter, she received the education, encouragement and empowerment she needed to continue fighting to live her best possible life.
Growing up without a father, Aaron faced several significant personal challenges with behavior and self-esteem. United Way supported Sherwood Forest Camp provided the encouragement, advice and reassurance he lacked in his life. Now, Aaron is giving back to the place that encouraged him to be the person he is today.
After two company buyouts and cut hours, Milton, 63, couldn’t keep up financially. He lost everything – his home and all belongings – and resorted to living out of his vehicle. But with the help of his local union and United Way, Milton was able to get out of his van and back on his feet.
Karrie, a Collinsville, IL resident born with Down syndrome, found difficulty forming relationships and performing activities many take for granted every day. With the help of a United Way agency, Karrie has blossomed into an outgoing, ambitious young woman who is now lead model for the national clothing company Wet Seal.
April didn’t grow up with a loving, caring, supportive family. Instead, she was abused, ran away from home and became involved in gang activity. Seeking a real family, April came to Youth In Need where she was provided the safety, guidance and love a true family provides.
When Carmie’s neighborhood experienced looting and civil unrest, the struggling community was thrust into turmoil. Seeking respite from the disruptions, Carmie received assistance from United Way’s drop-in center.
Ethan, who was born with Down syndrome, is now attending college thanks to the developmental, job and social skills he acquired with St. Louis Arc’s help and support.
At 20 months, Ben was nonverbal, made no eye contact, and had angry and sometimes violent behaviors. Everyone his mother turned to said “he is a typical 2-year-old.” Unwilling to give up, she came looking for answers and help for her son at United Way supported Community Link.
Growing up, Monica and her nine brothers and sisters never felt deprived in their South City home. After her father was killed when she was only 15, her family’s future absolutely changed. Hope was only restored after the intervention of a United Way supported agency.
After the devastating toll a tornado took on their new home, 60-year-old Debra and her 19-year-old daughter turned to four United Way supported agencies for the resources necessary to rebuild their lives.
Imagine enjoying your retirement years when you’re suddenly named the guardian of your seven great-grandchildren. This is what happened to 70-year-old Everlena. With eight people cramped in a three-bedroom house, no new income and utilities cut off, she turned to a United Way agency for help.
Megan didn’t know what her next step would be after learning she was pregnant at 15. Though she was unsure of what the future would hold, she knew that something would need to change if she wanted to keep her son out a dangerous situation and provide him with a safe, healthy environment.
Local artist Geoff Reynolds watched his dreams come to a crashing halt when he suffered a stroke nearly four years ago. Thanks to a United Way funded agency, he has made remarkable strides toward recovery and is back to doing what he loves – creating art.
After more than 25 years of drug abuse, life on the streets and time in prison, Mechelle knew a change had to be made. Today, because of the help of United Way supported YWCA, Mechelle’s living the life she thought she’d never have – one full of happiness, health and the desire to help others.
Through the connection of a United Way supported agency, five children who were severely abused and neglected came into the lives of Jim and Bobbie Jo Parker. Today, trust has triumphed over fear, smiles have replaced frowns, and laughs have washed away tears.
Growing up, Erykah was picked on incessantly. She was alienated for her intelligence and longed for a guiding hand to help keep her on the right path. With help from United Way supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois, Erykah was matched with a mentor who helped provide that friendship and voice of reason she didn’t have before.
A 6th grader and St. Charles resident, Anna has a love for horseback riding, cheerleading and her dog. But just two years ago, Anna was rushed to the hospital, asking, “Am I going to die?”
When Tracey went into labor, she was only halfway through a typical full-term pregnancy. Due to prematurity, Gabe experienced a host of developmental delays, but with the help of a United Way supported agency, this lively 5-year-old will be attending kindergarten this fall.
4-year-old Claire was born with cerebral palsy, came into this world fighting and hasn’t stopped since. Thanks to a United Way funded agency, she has made remarkable progress, both physically and verbally. She’s a true survivor who proves anything is possible.
High school sweethearts Krystal and Ivan never thought that three years into their marriage, they’d be faced with one of the most difficult challenges their relationship would be tested to withstand.
Willie doesn’t say “no” to much. From skydiving to swimming with dolphins, he’s done it all. It’s hard to believe just a few years ago, this 42-year-old living with cerebral palsy struggled with low self-esteem and separation anxiety. But thanks to a United Way supported agency, all of that changed.
After years of emotional abuse from her husband, Tracey knew she needed to get out. But it wasn’t until her four daughters’ lives were in jeopardy that she knew they needed to leave for good.
Four years ago, Katie was matched with 13-year-old Maya through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri. Although Katie may not be Maya’s sister in the traditional sense, her continuous care and support certainly merit familial status. Through this United Way funded program, the two have developed a rare bond that can only be described as one-of-a-kind.
Growing up, Carlos was surrounded by drugs, prostitution and a father with 25 children. Because of this, as Carlos became older, it was difficult for him to see what it meant to be a responsible adult and father figure.
When Bridget and Mike learned their daughter, Faith, would be born blind, they were devastated. Facing obstacles ranging from hearing loss to feeding issues, Faith’s parents feared their daughter would never have the opportunity to learn, grow or enjoy life to the fullest.
Sam was born with an extremely rare chromosome deletion, so rare that only a handful of other cases are known worldwide. It was only a few years ago that he struggled with sensory issues, had difficulty keeping still and never smiled. But through the help of a United Way supported agency, Sam’s challenges were turned into motivators.
Last year, five girls came together to put their intelligence to the test and to learn about teamwork. Since then, this feisty group of 11-year-olds has learned they can do anything they put their minds to.
After being laid off from her previous job of 26 years, Lisa became homeless. With the help of United Way funded Employment Connection, Lisa was able to get back on track with a full-time job and a place of her own. Now she’s helping others.
At age 15, Ethan watched as his life fell apart around him the moment his mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Two-and-a-half years later, his father passed away from cancer. Devastated, Ethan feared his dream of pursuing college was lost. But now, with the help of United Way supported Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, Ethan can make his dream a reality and knows his mother is in good hands.
Through Humanitri, a United Way agency, Angelica was given a helping hand, a fresh perspective and a second chance at a new life. Now, each day, Angelica instills hope in those who remind her of where she once was herself.
It’s hard to imagine that just three years ago, Fiona* faced a twin pregnancy, abandonment, homelessness and theft. Now, a fully furnished home and three years later, the Nigerian native’s dreams are once again within reach, thanks to a United Way supported agency.
When 16-year old Cassandra* found out she was pregnant with her daughter Kayla* she wasn’t sure what to expect. At the time, she was living in a cramped home with her mother and five younger siblings, where the floor of her sister’s room served as her bed.
When Linda Hatch came to Human Support Services, she was living an unstable life, dealing with bipolar disorder, mild developmental disabilities and drug and alcohol abuse. The care, counseling, social skills, education and medical care she received at HSS means Linda is now recovered, employed and living on her own.
Just four years ago, Je’Ree was on the corner of Grand and Delmar. She’d learned she was pregnant and had no family, no support and an increasingly abusive boyfriend. She was addicted to opiates. She was homeless: “on the street, stealing.”
When Nancy returned home after 20 years, she never thought she would be in danger of losing the South St. Louis City home where she grew up. However, a bout with mercury poisoning and multiple infections left Nancy disabled and unable to work.
The first time Jeremy Griggs, now 34, remembers his family getting food from a food pantry he was about 4 years old. “I was surprised,” he said. “I was with my mom and we got all this food in boxes.” Food didn’t come in boxes, he continued. It came from grocery stores. From then on he knew, if there were boxes of food at home, that food came from the pantry.
In his home country, Osman had been jailed for speaking against the Sudanese government. After a short time in prison, Osman escaped. However, his only choice was to flee Sudan and leave his family. It was the only way to ensure their safety. He came to the United States as a refugee with little except his memories, including memories of beekeeping back home.
You never quite know how your donation to United Way is going to affect someone’s life. Sharmeka Thompson called United Way of Greater St. Louis from Round Rock, TX, an Austin suburb, to say thank you.
In her 30-plus years of working at least one full-time job, Karen Krshul, 53, had never taken a sick day in her life. That is, until just a little more than a year ago when she missed only 10 days. Yes, only, as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent bilateral mastectomy surgery.
After welcoming her second child, Dawn learned she had breast cancer. Over that harrowing year, Dawn would undergo chemotherapy, radiation, a mastectomy and separation from her husband. In the midst of difficulty, both emotionally and financially, Dawn wanted her children to have stability. They found it at Cornerstone Center for Early Learning.
After surgery left Carl in need of assistance with maneuvering in and out of his house, United Way partner agency Rebuilding Together SouthWest Illinois ensured that he could stay in his home. It also allowed Carl to rest easy knowing he was able to safeguard the precious memories of his family that his home held.
As a child, Mallory witnessed the physical abuse her mother suffered at the hands of her drunken father. Even after her parents divorced and her father had left, she was sexually abused by her stepfather for six years until she was 14. At age 16, Mallory left her mother’s home and came into the Youth in Need family.
For years, Penny sought the opportunity to build a strong foundation based on leadership and social skills – things she couldn’t learn at home. Through a United Way supported agency, Penny was given these skills along with many others that have helped her become the successful person she is today.
Shayna, who was born with hearing loss, is now learning to read and speak thanks to Central Institute for the Deaf. The developmental, academic and social skills Shayna is acquiring at CID mean that soon she’ll be able to attend a mainstream school.
After escaping a violent relationship, Trinette needed somewhere safe for her and her young daughter to live. That place was The Women’s Safe House. There, Trinette and her daughter received shelter, food, clothing and a fresh start. Today, Trinette is a successful businesswoman with three bright children.
When Liam was diagnosed with a rare heart condition at age 2, his parents needed somewhere to turn. American Heart Association was there to support them.
Everyone needs a good friend, and Marynell is no exception. What seemed like a simple program at first quickly blossomed into something far more meaningful and beautiful than she ever expected.
After his father’s death at age 7, Djuan was in need of a stable structure and environment to learn and grow in. Thanks to a United Way funded agency, Djuan was given the guidance he needed. Now, years later, he is helping provide other youth the same opportunity.
Siblings Charles and Charlette needed a forever home. The Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition found their uncle Robert, and they became a family.
Peter was no longer the outgoing and fun-loving person his sister Pat remembered from their childhood. At classes at Paraquad, Peter flourished. Now, he can’t stop smiling.