A Different Ending

Season of Sharing Changes Stories and Lives

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

There is series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. As the name implies, readers are given the opportunity to navigate the story based on the options that are provided.

If you wish for the main character to walk down the dark alley alone, turn to page 17.

If you wish for the main character to return to the comfort of his home, turn to page 5.

I am turning to page 5. Despite the lack of suspense and intrigue, I prefer a happy ending.

In the non-fiction realm, as adults we often face challenging situations where we feel as if our only option is to walk down the dark alley and accept our fate.

In today’s story, we find the Brown family*. Michael and Rebecca Brown are a hard-working couple, raising two children. Like 40% of Americans, they have less than $300 in savings, but they are both employed and managing just fine paycheck-to-paycheck.

Going into the COVID-19 pandemic, Rebecca found out her job was eliminated. Her husband continued to work, and with a little tightening of the budget and using their savings as needed, they were keeping up with their bills.

Rebecca applied for unemployment benefits, feeling confident that they would figure it out, as they always had. Unfortunately, Michael came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. He was only off work for two weeks, but that was all it took for them to get behind on their utility bills. With their savings depleted and their power shut off, Michael used his next paycheck to get the power turned back on, but the extra fees caused them to have to pay their rent late. More fees came from that decision, and a bounced check fee from their bank added to the situation. Within just a few months, that small bump in the road turned into a mountain they couldn’t climb over.

The Brown family was looking at a domino effect of financial impacts that would eventually put them on the street.

However, in this story, we can choose our own adventure. Let’s back-up to the day when the Browns received notice that their power would be shut off.

If you wish for the Brown family to find resources that could help them, turn to page 23.

In this version of the story, a friend refers Rebecca to St. Vincent de Paul Sacred Heart for assistance. Her case worker tells her about Season of Sharing that can provide assistance for rent, mortgage and utility bills. Before too long, the power has been restored in their home, Michael is back to work, and Rebecca is looking for a new job.

In this version of the story, that one financial dilemma was solved before it could lead to another one.

This is the non-fiction version of what happened to Michael and Rebecca Brown, right here in Charlotte County. Through Season of Sharing, a few hundred dollars made all the difference in their ability to overcome the unexpected. You can be part of stories like these by giving to Season of Sharing through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Your gift allows a family just like the Browns to choose the page that their story will continue on.

We welcome your gift to the Season of Sharing fund this month. The Patterson Foundation has offered a generous match of $100,000 for every $500,000 received by a community through January 31, 2022. Your gift can help us reach our match to support Charlotte County families. This past year, through Season of Sharing, we were able to assist over 2,000 individuals from 800 Charlotte County households. These households were one bump in the road away from a financial disaster, much like the Browns.

Donations to Season of Sharing may be made online (unitedwayccfl.org/season-sharing), or by sending a check payable to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to:

Season of Sharing

c/o Community Foundation of Sarasota County

2635 Fruitville Road

Sarasota, FL 34237

Contact the Foundation at 941-955-3000 for more information or to request a credit card form. Be sure to let the Foundation know which county you wish to support (i.e., Charlotte County).

*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the family.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.