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Volunteering at MOM connects with my values and gives me an opportunity to give back to the community. This year, I sorted school supplies for MOM’s Back to School Program so kids could start the school year prepared to learn and have the chance to succeed. I know that supporting MOM makes a difference for our neighbors.

Akilah was living on a tight budget with dreams for a better future when a car accident left her injured and without a way to get to work. After lost wages and medical bills sabotaged her finances, she fell several months behind on rent for the apartment she shares with her young son. The prospect of being evicted loomed large and Akilah couldn’t find a path forward to solid ground. When she most needed support, her community was there for her.

Akilah’s landlord referred her to one of MOM’s case managers and she started building stability for her family. Thanks to the generous support our community provides, MOM provided her housing assistance and negotiated a payment plan for the rent she owed, along with funds to fix her car so she could drive her kids to school and get to work on time. While her car was being repaired, Akilah received deliveries from MOM’s food pantry and her elderly mother was able to get to her medical appointments thanks to volunteers who provide rides through MOM’s Seniors Program. In the months after Akilah first reached out to MOM, she set personalized goals with her case manager to increase her work hours to a full-time position, pay off her debt and save money.

With food prices rising, Akilah can keep up with her rent and make sure her son has nutritious meals with groceries from MOM’s food pantry. Thanks to our Back to School program, her son received a backpack filled with school supplies to start the school year ready to learn. And with support from our community, she and her family will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal and exchange holiday gifts through our Winter Wishes program. Akilah can now focus on getting her GED and training to become a dental hygienist to secure a job with full benefits. Today, she can see a future where her family will thrive.

Janet wasn’t behind on rent when she reached out to MOM for financial assistance, but her fixed income was barely keeping up with the rest of her bills after her husband died. The 57-year-old is unable to work due to her disability and ongoing health issues and her monthly SSDI income is $1,352 per month, just barely enough to cover her rent. She has been wanting to find a different apartment to cut costs, but she has been too ill to move for the past several years and has no family to offer assistance. A MOM case manager worked with Janet to provide financial assistance to pay off her past due utility and internet bills and connected her to federal energy assistance to cover the cost of her winter heating bill.

Many of the older adults MOM serves have seen their rent continue to go up while their incomes remain stagnant. For seniors in our community like Janet, MOM’s programs are a key factor in creating stability.

I started with MOM this summer after I volunteered with Second Harvest at the Alliant Energy Center during the pandemic. I volunteer in the food pantry – I greet guests, answer questions and stock shelves. Every day is going to be different. As long as I’m able, I enjoy helping people in need – it’s fulfilling to be able to do that. I appreciate how our team is a mix of experienced volunteers and newcomers because we help each other. It’s an opportunity to meet people who have a common interest that you have, which is to help.

Ray first met with Case Manager and Seniors Program Manager Laurie Horton in summer 2020, when our offices were closed to clients due to the pandemic. The 64-year-old had been referred to us by a property manager she had once worked with. Ray had lost his job and didn’t have any family. He also had limited education and didn’t have access to a computer or smartphone. With our offices closed for the pandemic along with the rest of the world to help keep the community safe, he stood outside Laurie’s open office window while she helped him fill out the online application for unemployment benefits. For a few months, MOM’s housing assistance programs helped Ray pay rent and secure some COVID funds available for renters to avoid eviction. Despite all of Laurie’s efforts, by September 2021 Ray could no longer afford his apartment and began living out of his truck.

Over the next year, Laurie would reach out, calling him whenever she got information about available apartments for seniors. She helped him with applications for different housing, but nothing came together and he continued to live in his truck. Laurie remained committed and she reached out again in the spring when she heard about new affordable housing for seniors in a neighboring community. She worked with Ray to submit his application and he was accepted. He got his keys and moved into his new apartment in September. Laurie says that typically MOM connects people who are unhoused to services aimed at people experiencing homelessness. “He needed a lot more personal touch because of his situation,” she says. “Everybody’s story is different and everybody needs a different touch. What made the difference is MOM being able to be flexible enough to help in the way that he needed.”

When you donate to MOM, you support our housing stability programs and the work of our case managers like Laurie, who make a huge difference in the lives of neighbors in our community.

Jenny Price, Communications Manager, supports MOM’s program and development teams. Before joining MOM, she ran her own communications consulting firm, was a lead writer and editor for UW-Madison’s alumni magazine, and worked as a journalist for the Associated Press. She has bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the UW. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and weekly pizza and movie nights with her husband and two teenage sons. She also loves to bake and cook — frequently trying out new recipes — and taking walks with her two dogs.

We’re grateful to those of you who acted to support families in our Connections program who are moving from doubled-up living situations with friends or family to homes of their own. Thanks to generous donors who purchased items from our Amazon wish list, we delivered bedding, kitchen tools and other household items to program participants. For more information about Connections, visit momhelps.org/ways-to-give/connections-sponsorship/

Peggy Halloran, Donor Relations Officer, coordinates individual giving and grants. Her professional background spans over 25 years in fundraising, special events, grant writing and communications for local organizations including The Road Home Dane County, Madison College Foundation and Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, as well as the American Heart Association and Glenkirk in the Chicago area. Peggy holds a BA in journalism and MA in communications from Drake University, Des Moines, IA. During her free time she can be found cheering on her teenage son at baseball and football games.

When a family faces the threat of eviction, it can mean children have to switch schools or school districts, sometimes within the same year. Thanks to the Reducing School Mobility grant through the United Way of Dane County from the Siemer Institute, MOM is working with families in our community to ensure kids can stay in their same schools. Our case managers can use the funds flexibly to help families pay rent and cover unexpected costs that can mean the difference between a child staying in their classroom or being uprooted.

Megan Ernsteen, Food Security Manager, is now a permanent staffer following a year-long internship for her Social Work masters program through UW-Madison. Megan’s role is to manage the delivery program, clothing center, and the garden while also facilitating donations/drives. She is excited to work with such a supportive and welcoming group of people. Megan attended Michigan State University for her undergraduate degree, but loved the idea of living in Madison because it’s so close to home. She is from the Chicagoland area and travels home often to see her family. When she isn’t working she enjoys spending as much time as possible with her dog, watching movies, and spending time with friends.