Two Sides to Every Story

Miriam P. Raines Charitable Fund Increases Data, Depth

Sharing a story is an art form.

A good story will include just enough context to set the scene and the perfect balance of description, suspense and emotion. Stringing just the right words together will engage your reader or listener, having them curious to learn more.

Words matter. But data tells another side to your story and can provide depth and scope.

At United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC), we tell our story best when we combine testimonials with numbers, but our capacity to collect and analyze data has been limited.

Data scientist Hilary Mason has stated, “Data is a tool for enhancing intuition.” While we know a lot intuitively about the needs in Charlotte County and how local health and human service organizations are making an impact, without hard numbers, there is a lot of the story that is missing. We recognized in recent years that our intuition could use enhancing.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation has walked beside us in our efforts to increase our capacity through grant funding from the Miriam P. Raines Charitable Fund. Miriam P. Raines was a strong proponent of helping women improve the quality of their lives through learning life skills. This funding has been instrumental in increasing our understanding of the needs of our community, with an emphasis on women.

Most recently, a $34,374 grant allowed UWCC to increase capacity for tracking the needs of local families who access health and human service resources. Through a deeper dive into local data, agencies who are funded through UWCC can more clearly see the gaps and are poised to address those gaps through referrals to the right resources.

Funds were also used to increase capacity for the Season of Sharing (SOS) program. SOS provides rent, mortgage and utility assistance for families in need. This grant allowed us the capacity to go fully digital with our application and reporting process. We are currently the only SOS fiscal agent that has been able to migrate away from paper, which has increased our efficiency with data collection and analysis. Data collected in the past year indicated that 35% of households served live in the 33952 zip code, and nearly half of those served by SOS are employed.

Additionally, funds were used to support the development of a sustainable, long-term vision and plan for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at the new Family Services Center in Port Charlotte. UWCC used the Family Services Center as a tax preparation site for its VITA program in 2022 and had great success.

This year, our clients got back 114% more dollars in Earned Income Tax Credits alone. The total Earned Income Tax Credit dollars across all Charlotte County VITA sites was $196,653 in 2022 compared to $91,904 in 2021.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is designed to lift working families and minor children out of poverty, particularly single heads of household. United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) does an excellent job of bringing services and supports like these to families in need. We are honored to partner with UWCC to steward Miriam P. Raines’ legacy and to see the positive impact she is making beyond her lifetime,” shared Jennifer Johnston, Director of Community Leadership at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Numbers like those are incredible and tell a compelling story about the great work that is being done in Charlotte County. But the other side of the story is equally compelling, and even more important.

The other side of the story is that of the lives we are impacting.

A mother arrived at her VITA appointment pushing a young child in a stroller. Once she shared that she was raising not just one child but six children, it was clear why she could not afford the cost of traditional tax preparation. Families like hers are the reason United Way of Charlotte County provides the VITA program.

This mother was able to have her taxes prepared at no cost, and through utilizing child tax credits, she learned that she would be receiving a refund of over $22,000. Her gratitude brought tears to the eyes of several VITA volunteers, knowing they had made a difference in her life and that of her family.

We need both sides of the story to paint an accurate picture. And we are grateful for the continued support of Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Miriam P. Raines Charitable Fund as we mobilize the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty. To learn more about Gulf Coast Community Foundation, visit

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