Karie grew up watching Univision. So when Maria from United Way’s Center for Excellence in Early Education suggested she enter a contest from “Cena 23,” she jumped at the chance. Maria wrote about Karie’s family, submitted the entry, and just like that, they won tickets for the entire family to Santa’s Enchanted Forest.
“It was a great experience,” Karie says. “I have a lot of kids, so it was a dream come true. It is kind of pricey [to go there], and right now financially it’s been rough. So to be able to take them and see their faces light up was really, really nice.”
But life for Karie and her family hasn’t always been this fortunate. Karie, her husband Jason and their five children have encountered many seemingly constant struggles. Jason suffered from a debilitating car accident that has left him unable to work and in need of surgery – and left Karie to be the sole provider, working a night shift at a casino while pregnant. The aftermath of Hurricane Irma also left them with water and roof damage due to Hurricane Irma, which forced the large family to move in with Karie’s mom. Through all of this, they keep pushing forward.
“Despite their various hardships, the family always remains positive,” says Maria, the Center’s family engagement specialist. “Their main focus is on taking care of their children and raising them to value education – and to always be thankful for what they have.”
Now with the help of our community, their situation has gradually improved. And to think, their relationship with our United Way all started because Karie was simply apartment hunting. “When I went to see an apartment, I saw a flyer on the wall and read about the school [United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education],” she says. “I came across the school and fell in love with it. The people are very nice and everybody is just so helpful.”
Karie currently has two of her kids enrolled at the school. “To be honest with you, it’s been a blessing,” she continues. “Whenever I’ve hit a rough patch, they’ve always helped me. Even having access to the pantry has been a great help.”
The year before last, Maria told them about United Way’s adopt a family program for the holidays. “Thanks to her, someone adopted our family and we were able to give them [the kids] a really nice Christmas,” she says. “I can’t count the blessings. There are so many blessings that they’ve given us. It’s been a very big help.”
Through United Way programs, Karie and her family have also received things like clothing donations for her kids and diapers. “They’ve gone out of their way to help me and the situation I’ve been in,” she says. “I can’t wait for the day that I can pay it forward.”