407-823-3094 LiveUnited@ucf.edu

September 27, 2016 | By Kiela Sims

My introduction to the United Way and the impact it has in the communities it serves occurred in January of 2013. I was in the final semester of fulfilling the requirements for my bachelor’s degree in social work at UCF and I had an interview for an internship with Heart of Florida United Way 2-1-1 (HFUW). Before my interview, I admit I had no idea what the United Way was or how involved they were in communities. But I got the internship, and quickly learned that HFUW 2-1-1 was a hub for a wide variety of resources that ranged from food pantry locations to a suicide prevention hotline.

In the internship, I would answer the calls, and connect individuals and families to the resources they needed. Toward the end of my internship, and two weeks before graduation, I was in a financial bind and was not able to pay my rent for my apartment. I was distraught, and my internship supervisor noticed. After discussing my situation with her, she informed me that I too could use the services they provided for the community. I was immediately connected with a case manager at the Catholic Charities and I was able to pay my rent while waiting to start my new career. I am forever grateful to the United Way, and today I am an advocate for the United Way Campaign with UCF.

It was ironic that the same resources I was connecting people to were also a saving grace for me. The United Way has impacted my life tremendously by giving me a solid foundation to launch my career, and helping me to realize firsthand that hard times can happen to anyone.