Karen was tired of her life when she finally decided to call the S.A.F.E. Center. She experienced an incident when her boyfriend shoved and strangled her and threatened to take her out to the country where “no one would find her.” It was then that she knew something had to change. Her children needed her to be strong so she began working with counselors who helped her apply for housing and get connected with an attorney for custody. Karen was able to stay at the S.A.F.E. Center shelter for three weeks until housing opened up. An advocate helped her get a protection order, housing, benefits and employment.

After Karen and her children started their new lives, she continued to attend counseling and support groups every week. Eventually, she began to heal and learned she could be on her own. She had support throughout the entire process. Any time she needed to talk, someone was there on the phone or in person to help her through tough times. She now tells her story to others living in abusive relationships so they, too, can know that help is available.

Karen’s story of struggle is all too common right here in central Nebraska. Fortunately, there are agencies like the S.A.F.E. Center that help those in need. It’s just one of 20 agencies that are supported by the local United Way.

The United Way impacts people and communities throughout the world. Largely, the brand is well known for helping those in need, but does the general public really understand the full scale of United Way’s work? Are people aware that each community typically has a local United Way agency that works every day to support local people who are struggling with basic needs in areas of education, income and health? Do people realize that 99% of all funds raised locally stay in this region to help people locally?

Such is the case with the United Way of the Kearney Area (UWKA). Led by Executive Director, Lisa Reese Parish, including her staff, a board of directors and additional volunteers, the UWKA works tirelessly to raise enough money each year to support each of those 20 partner agencies. As one could imagine, agencies of support like the S.A.F.E. Center, The ARC of Buffalo County, the Friends Program and RAFT, just to name a few, require money and resources to be successful. They apply for grants and have other sources of financial support, but largely, many of these agencies rely on funds from the United Way to operate effectively. Without the powerful fundraising efforts of the United Way to support the S.A.F.E. Center, people like Karen wouldn’t have anywhere to turn for help. Then who knows where Karen and her children would be today?

There’s no better time than right now to offer your support for the United Way and people like Karen. Because right now people in this community are struggling. Even though we don’t see it every day, it’s happening. Right now, someone has a child who is struggling with his education and needs help getting on the right track. Right now, someone is out of work and struggling to support his family. Right now, someone else is getting out of an abusive relationship and needs to know where to turn for help.

You can be the one who helps. By making a contribution to the United Way, you’re supporting local agencies that directly support those in need. You’ll know that your money is being put to work to help someone get their life back on track or keep them heading in a positive direction.

Here’s a shocking fact: even though unemployment rates in Kearney are close to 3%, there is still a 16% poverty rate. I invite you to be part of something bigger – be part of the change. You LIVE UNITED when you GIVE, ADVOCATE and VOLUNTEER to strengthen our community. GIVE a little more this year. ADVOCATE by telling a friend about United Way. VOLUNTEER by lending your time and skills to help others.

For more information on how you can BE THE ONE, visit www.uwka.org, and make a donation today. Together, let’s make sure every “Karen” out there has every opportunity for a brighter tomorrow.

If you or someone you know is in need of help in areas of education, income or health you can contact 211 to find a solution. 211 gives Nebraskans two ways to look for services. Search the ne211.org online database or dial 2-1-1 on your phone. Both are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Kyle Means

Kyle Means is the Director of Marketing for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He enjoyed a fulfilling career in Sports & Entertainment prior to his work in higher education. Past stops include HuskerVision, Houston Rockets/Toyota Center, and the Tri-City Storm/Viaero Event Center. Kyle left the sports biz in 2014 to pursue a career more focused on marketing where he can use a combination of strategic and creative skills. Plus, he now has a few more nights and weekends to spend with his awesome family including his wife (HerViewFromHome founder) Leslie Means, their two daughters Ella and Grace and son, Keithan.  Kyle still enjoys watching and playing a variety of sports. The competitive, yet unifying, nature of sports is a strangely beautiful concept that he loves. When he’s not enhancing the brand at UNK, spending time with family or watching/playing sports, Kyle can usually be found volunteering at First Lutheran Church where likes to display a strong faith and give back to the community.