Profile of Success: Karen Perham-Lippman
"I give because 2-1-1 changed our lives."
United Way 2-1-1 changed our lives. When my twins were only 11 months old and my oldest was five, we were living in a situation and an environment that was very unhealthy; a very frightening time in our lives.
In an effort to get away and start over, my boys and I moved to Colorado with my parents. During that 10 month period time, my parents helped us to begin healing, and with renewed courage and strength we returned to our home in Connecticut.
With this, my spouse was ordered to vacate our family home. Once my boys and I were allowed to re-enter, we found our home in shambles and nearly in foreclosure. I did not have a job and we were not receiving the court ordered financial support. My parents stocked our refrigerator with food, bought me a toolbox so that I could make a few simple home repairs and they gave us some money to pay the bills.
I began the lengthy court process to finalize our divorce and started reaching out to people in my community for help. One woman, named Katy, gave me a copy of United Way's 2-1-1 Newsletter. She knew that I had been trying to find a job and that we were struggling with our finances.
I called to see if we qualified for any of the listed support programs and the operator connected me to local services and resources. This led us to food pantry donations, farm stand vouchers, assisted oil purchases for our furnace to keep us warm in the winter and daycare in a local church for a few hours a week, which helped me obtain a job in teaching. We then qualified for CARE-4-KIDS and also began receiving Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and HUSKY Healthcare for a period of time.
The whole experience was tremendously humbling. Prior to our leaving, I had a career, and was in the midst of completing a path in higher education. We lived in what looked on the outside like an idyllic life to those around us. I certainly did not envision that we would one day need the support of so many resources within our community for the very simplest of human needs.
It has been seven years since we received those initial services. My twins are now in fourth grade studying at a STEM school and are active in sports. They have been in Cub Scouts for four years and received 'compassion badges' for inspiring an eyeglasses drive that led to a donation of over 1,000 pairs for those in need. My oldest began high school this year, where he takes all honors classes and took college courses. He also served as the student representative for our town's new school website. He maintained an internship for a year in a local computer store, and while excelling in school and playing sports, he mentors other youth. I have my dream job, I serve on several boards in the community and I am a "Big Sister" in the Nutmeg Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. My boys and I regularly volunteer in our community in the hopes of giving back just a small measure of what was once given to us.
I believe that United Way's 2-1-1 newsletter and the support resources that we received gave us a second chance, and it took just one simple phone call. It takes many organizations, such as 2-1-1, to support a family's many needs and Community Investment is a way to give back to all of them. That's why I now give to United Way Community Investment'¦because 2-1-1 changed our lives.
--- Karen L. Perham-Lippman, Comcast Corporation, member of the United Way of New Britain and Berlin Regional Advisory Board
When you give to United Way Community Investment you support United Way 2-1-1, a free 24-hour helpline for families to gain access to information and referrals that ensure their basic needs are met. Individuals may dial 2-1-1 or visit www.211ct.org, 24 hours a day/7 days a week for free, confidential and multilingual services. In 2012, United Way 2-1-1 handled more than 139,000 calls that resulted in nearly 193,000 requests for services in the 40 towns of central and northeastern Connecticut. Learn more at unitedwayinc.org/basicneeds.