Guiding Families Toward Brighter Financial Futures

Thank you to our guest blogger Emily Lemiska of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Willie Butler didn’t like the way his clothing smelled of fish after a long day of work at a South Boston seafood distributor. But when he was laid off 18 months ago, he would have done just about anything to have his job back. Until that point, Willie had always been able to support his wife of 13 years and their five sons. As months passed without any job prospects, he grew desperate.

“Bills add up real quickly when you’re unemployed,” says 40-year-old Willie, a lifelong Boston resident.

Though he collected unemployment and his wife was working, it wasn’t enough to sustain a family of seven. They sank deeper and deeper into the vicious cycle of financial debt. Willie had never asked for assistance before, but he knew he had little choice.

“If you have to choose between asking for help or being on the streets, it’s not a hard decision,” he says. An estimated 11.7 million Americans, just like Willie, are unemployed. Your gift helps United Way provide families and individuals with a brighter, more stable financial future.

When Willie found out about LIFT-Boston, a nonprofit that helps individuals and families work toward long-lasting economic stability and well-being, he was eager to get started. LIFT-Boston, jointly funded by United Way and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, is one of four centers in the greater Boston area that bring together a continuum of financial stability support services – including financial counseling, job search and training support, housing assistance, tax and public benefit guidance, and referrals to other basic services – all under one roof. Research shows that clients benefitting from this holistic approach are far more likely to achieve substantial financial stability.

Willie was partnered with a LIFT volunteer advocate, Ivy, who helped him set financial goals and begin working toward them. First, they made sure his family’s basic needs were met, obtaining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for food and signing him up for NSTAR and National Grid arrearage payment plans. They helped Willie secure steady housing and created a plan for covering the back rent he owed.

“From there, it began to have a snowball effect,” says Willie. “One thing happens after another, and you start building momentum toward a better future.”

Willie realized he wanted to pursue a career in construction instead of the food industry. LIFT helped him create his very first resume, highlighting his past landscaping and demolition experience, along with his volunteer work as a youth basketball coach. Next, Willie completed his OSHA 10 certification, a common requirement for construction workers, and – thanks to a networking opportunity provided by LIFT – got an interview with a major construction company.

“I went on the interview last week,” says Willie. “It’s looking promising – it’s looking really good.”

His ultimate dream is to buy a house, a dream that seems more realistic now than ever before. But Willie knows it’s one step at a time. For now, he and his wife are giving back by volunteering with LIFT – helping others in their community get back onto their feet.

Gifts to United Way can help empower individuals like Willie to take control of difficult financial situations and build a better, more secure future for their families.