Dana Garcia didn’t know she would find herself crying in the bathroom that day.
A proud Haskell employee, she was invited to a United Way of Northeast Florida poverty simulation as part of the company’s annual fundraising campaign. United Way poverty simulations immerse participants in the daily challenges of families living in poverty.
The experience moved Dana to tears.
“Poverty hits very, very close to home,” she said. “I am in no way complaining of my income from Haskell, but with a family of my size, much of [the poverty simulation] presentation has been my reality on and off for years.”
A single mother of six, Dana works hard every day to provide for her children, whose ages range from infant to young adult. She’s experienced many challenges, such as covering child-care expenses, support with utilities and lack of transportation. She also receives monthly Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) support to help cover food expenses.
Dana remembers when a car accident created even more challenges. The costly deductible made it difficult to afford groceries and pay bills.
United Way, she said, was there for her through it all.
“I was able to call 2-1-1 and be referred to the food pantry at Catholic Charities for assistance,” she said. “It’s like calling 4-1-1 but for your life.”
Dana said 2-1-1 helped her get through this crisis with little disruption to her family.
“I didn’t miss a day of work,” Dana said. “I was able to catch up, able to feed my family. At the end of the day, that’s what’s really important. You just want to feed your family, make sure there’s a roof over their heads, the lights are on. Not everyone is able to do that comfortably.”
In addition to emergency needs, Dana has learned how to be more financially secure thanks to United Way’s RealSense initiative. She not only saves hundreds of dollars annually by filing her income taxes through RealSense, she also participated in financial education workshops.
“I only have a bank account because of a class I took through RealSense,” she said. “My credit was so bad that no one would bank with me unless I got a certificate from the class.”
She is also extremely grateful Haskell and others are so generous and give so much of their time and money to improving the lives of others.
“It just makes me even more proud to be part of this awesome organization,” Dana said. “I feel so blessed and encouraged to work with so many awesome, caring people that truly want to be part of the difference rather than just throw a few dollars at the situation. It truly does make a difference and a blessing to people that think no one cares. I am thankful to say that I know different.”
Dana also gives to United Way what she can, knowing the little bit she’s able to donate makes a big difference when invested in a united effort to help others.
“It’s important to do your part and do what you can,” Dana said.
Dana’s story is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of lives touched by United Way and its partners every year. More than a third of Northeast Florida lives in poverty or at the brink of poverty. When more lives like Dana’s prosper so does our community. Help create a more vibrant Northeast Florida. Invest in United Way of Northeast Florida so everyone can reach their full potential.
Visit unitedwaynefl.org/give to change a life like Dana’s now.
“I believe what you put into the universe, you get back from the universe,” said Dana. “It’s important to me to help where I can.”