It’s an idea from the United Way of Milton.  Gather a group of smart, successful,  compassionate women in a room and talk about the organization, and its member agencies, and collect a few donations.  Last night’s meeting focused on Community Living North Halton, and STRIDE.  We heard the stories behind the organizations.

Community Living North Halton supports mentally disabled children, youth, and adults.  We heard William’s story.  William works at the Lunchbox Café, and goes to Social Fridays, a program funded by the United Way.  He, and his friends get to hang out doing crafts, watching movies, having fun.  It develops social skills, and gives his parents a break.

STRIDE (Supported Training and Rehabilitation in Diverse Environments), helps people with ‘lived experience’ readjust to the work force if they’ve been off for a long time. Angela is one of the coaches, and she spoke about the people she’s helped from all walks of life from construction workers to lawyers.

Those are 2 of 29 agencies. It was more than just hearing these stories that stuck with me.  It was a comment by United Way CEO Kate Holmes that really made an impact.  She emphasized that people who used these agencies were just like us.  They were smart, successful, compassionate.  But for whatever reason whether it was divorce, or mental illness they fell on hard times.

And that got me thinking about fear and stigma.  A lot of people are afraid to admit they need help.  And once they do, they’re afraid to say “I’m one of the people who needs food for life,” or “I needed  STRIDE to help me find a job.”  There seems to be such a stigma associated with needing these services.  It’s as if when people do, they’re looked down on as freeloaders or they’re seen as weak for admitting they need help.

As the old saying goes; appearances can be deceiving.  What looks like a great life from the outside can be riddled with problems.  The person with the fabulous house, and fancy car may be using a food bank because their spouse lost a job.

We should be building a culture where saying “I need help” is becomes a good thing.  Where instead of turning away from someone in need, we can encourage them to do what’s necessary. There’s a universality in it; that any one of us can need help at any given time. In order to do that we have to support the United Way’s efforts.

To learn more head to their website.  The next session for the Circle of Women who Care is September 22, at Bergsma’s.  They’re on Facebook, and the page includes a link to the event.