Meeting Families Where They're At: Karen's Story

Jerry suffered from a brain injury. He and his caregiver, Karen, had moved-in with Karen’s adult daughter Serena and her 4-year-old son. Although both Karen and Serena were working, within a year, the whole family was facing eviction. “We had exhausted every alternative we knew,” says Karen. Finally, another agency recommended UCOM.

However, within a week of learning about UCOM, Serena died from an overdose of prescription medication. “Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse,” says Karen. “Serena was gone, and grieving over-shadowed all the other calamity.”

In an effort to keep the rest of her family together, Karen called UCOM to see if the agency could help stave off eviction and provide food for Jerry and her grandson. UCOM immediately began the process of connecting Jerry, who is a veteran, to housing services, arranged a visit for the family to UCOM’s client choice food pantry, and was able to advise Karen on low-cost funeral services and provide appropriate clothing for the whole family.

Jerry, Karen and her grandson were able to remain in their house, and Jerry was connected to other veterans’ services that he did not know were available to him. What would Karen and her family have done without help? “As it is, the grief is overwhelming," says Karen. "But, we are warm and dry and have enough to eat. We have hope for better through the resources we have been connected to. Without you, we would be suffering our grief on the streets.”

As a partner of Heart of West Michigan United Way, United Church Outreach Ministry operates one of the largest food pantries in Kent County. United Way funding allows UCOM’s food pantry to provide groceries for 6,000 every month.

In addition, UCOM Ministerial Senior Support Coordinator Ila Flo Barfuss says “UCOM’s relationship with United Way also provides word of mouth and community resource connections that invite a wide range of people with many different needs to receive the help they need, when they need it."