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October 4, 2016 | By Natalie Duque

Imagine having no way to prove your identity or that you are who you say you are. How could you do things like get a job or even drive a car? This is a reality for many disadvantaged individuals in Central Florida. IDignity is a nonprofit organization that was created in 2008 by members of five downtown churches to help individuals obtain the personal identification needed, such as applying for a birth certificate, an ID card or driver’s license, and Social Security card in order for them to be able to fully participate in our society.  A number of agencies work with IDignity including, the Florida Division of Driver’s License, Orange County Tax Collector’s office, Orange County Health Department (birth certificates), Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, legal counsel and many others.

IDignity hosts monthly events at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission in downtown Orlando. Each event provides service to about 200 people who come as early as 4 a.m. to wait in line to be served. Clients are individually welcomed to the event and treated with dignity, respect and compassion throughout the entire process.

In order for this program to be carried out, the assistance of over 100 dedicated volunteers and the professional staff of the various agencies, along with attorneys and notaries is needed. Volunteers serve in a wide variety of roles including: introducing the process to clients, filling out forms for clients, assisting agencies or shepherding clients through the process. Although each individual’s case is unique, on average it can take about four hours of volunteer time and $200 to assist an individual in obtaining their essential identification documents. IDignity depends on the generous investment of time and resources by the local community in order to fulfill its crucial mission of restoring dignity and hope by providing identification to each individual and assisting them at no charge.

IDignity’s development director, Anne Taylor, notes how important an organization like this is for people trying to get back on their feet.

“IDignity is the only organization assisting individuals in regaining proof of their identity, to this magnitude that we know of in the United Sates.  With the help of our community, we raise over $500,000 a year to keep IDignity in motion.”

A recent client of the organization, Simone Jackson, recalls how IDignity helped her get through a tough week after her car was burglarized and her papers stolen, including her Social Security card, her passport, and her kids’ documents, which she needed to enroll them into daycare.

“It was a long line but look here,” she said, displaying a treasure trove of documents that will get her kids back in daycare so Jackson can continue to work. “It was worth it because the people here really help you.”

The documents that IDignity provides are required to do things like apply for employment or school, obtain access to shelters, seek help from many social service programs, open a bank account, cash a check, secure housing or overcome many other obstacles to becoming independent and self-sufficient.

If you are interested in supporting IDignity through our United Way campaign drive, you can designate your gift of $52 or more to go directly to that agency. If you would like to volunteer your time, please visit http://www.idignity.org/ or contact annetaylor@idignity.org.

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