By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
Originally published in the Florida Times-Union
When Angela Boyd speaks to her co-workers at Bank of America about the impact of United Way’s programs, she’s not just talking from her heart, she’s sharing her experience.
“When my child was injured in day care,” Boyd said, “I had to quit my job to care for her, because there was no family around to help me. It was hard to be a single parent to three daughters with no job. We ended up staying at Community Connections, a United Way of Northeast Florida funded transitional housing shelter in Jacksonville.”
Boyd’s 6-month-old infant’s hand got caught under a rocking chair, requiring multiple surgeries and lots of care. Her husband was no longer with them, and most of her family leave was used when her daughter was born.
It was a hardship she never anticipated — a very lonely time.
“I had always given [to United Way],” Boyd said, “but I never thought I would need help.”
She reached out first through her church and was put in touch with Community Connections.
“It put my feet on the ground again,” Boyd said.
Community Connections, a transitional housing shelter in downtown Jacksonville, allows families to stay for 18 months while they actively pursue getting back to work. Through the program’s help she was able to put her life back together.
In addition, her daughters were able to attend quality preschool through United Way’s Success By 6 scholarship program. She made sure they were also enrolled in United Way’s ReadingPals initiative, whose volunteers provide one-on-one reading instruction for prekindergarten children.
“That experience opened my girls up,” Boyd said. “They had friends, they had fun. They learned to be accepting of others. They’re thriving now. The youngest is on the Kindergarten Honor Roll; the older two girls are tackling sight words and math problems.”
Now, as an employee at Bank of America, Boyd uses her experience with United Way to volunteer.
Not only is she a speaker during her company’s internally run campaign season, she also serves with the Early Learning Coalition’s Parent Ambassador Program. The Early Learning Coalition partners with United Way in giving Success By 6 scholarship funding to high-quality early childhood programs.
“Each month, [ambassadors] meet to discuss ways to improve the program, and recently, we received a grant,” Boyd said. “I’m learning to advocate, to help other parents.”
It’s not an easy story to tell, she said of her previous hardships, but giving back is important to her now that she received so much help from United Way and its partners in her time of need.
“I’m passionate about giving back because I wouldn’t — and my children wouldn’t — have survived without United Way. I know how much it’s helped me.”