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United Way of Southwest Alabama / President's Desk  / President’s Blog: Can You Imagine?
May President's Blog: Can You Imagine?

President’s Blog: Can You Imagine?

Last Monday, exiting the office back door onto Joachim Street, the office manager, Erica Berger, and I encountered a young man eating fried chicken from United Way’s garbage can.  The can was taken to the street over the weekend, so the chicken was days old and had been sitting in the garbage can since at least Friday, but more likely from Thursday. When the young man looked up at us, he said, “I’m hungry. Nobody will give me food or money.” 

I quickly apprised the situation and told him to meet us at the front door. The situation I apprised was this. Did he smell of drugs or alcohol? Did he have track marks?  The answers were no.  He did not even smell of cigarettes. We brought him into the office, got him water, Gatorade, trail mix, and cheese crackers. We also noticed he limped. He said a car ran over his foot.  Trista Stout Walker, VP of Community Impact, quickly spun into motion. She let him know that one of the agencies downtown was serving a hot lunch that day, that a Housing First staff member could speak to him about housing, and that Franklin Memorial’s Health Care for the Homeless could assist him with his injured foot.

I still tear up when I think about seeing him eating out of United Way’s garbage can. What a sobering moment for the United Way’s staff and me. The UWSWA staff, of all people, know all too well the good, the bad and the ugly of our community, but every once and a while, something smacks us in the face and reminds of why we do what we do.

No one should go hungry in this community. No one should have to dig into garbage cans to find sustenance. Can you imagine how hungry you would have to be to eat out of a garbage can?

Thank you for supporting the agencies that provided services to the young man and to the tens of thousands of people who seek services annually. You have the power to change lives. You have the power to save lives. Someone needs your help today.