Sieda’s Executive Team, Brian, Tammy, and Natalie O., went to the 2018 Fundraising and Development for Nonprofits Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference was to develop techniques, form strategies, and build innovative approaches for non-profit organizations.
Sieda’s Assistant to the Executive Team, Natalie Osenbaugh, won 3rd place in a writing competition they held at the conference. Pictures show her reading her narration, included below.
Making a Difference
Making a difference. A difference. A change. Change is hard. Change is terrifying. Change is fear. Fear is within us, gripping our hearts and never letting us go. Can we change? Can we brave the fear and reach for –climb for, claw for– a brighter future? This world we live in, the community we live in, the town we live in, it shapes us, helps us, hurts us.
Have you lived on the wrong side of the tracks? In the run-down homes that have been forgotten for so long; owned by the people who could afford to fix them up but don’t, pocketing that rent money and walking away. Have you lived paycheck to paycheck? Settling all your bills only to find you have ten dollars left to your name to feed yourself and your children for the rest of the month? Ten dollars for three people to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the next two weeks. But then your tire blows and you’re left with debt and nothing to eat. Each winter do you keep your heat at a warm sixty-five to keep your pipes from freezing, your furnace running, and your children warm? Old friends with destructive habits tempt you to slip back into a lifestyle you fought tooth and nail to leave.
You can’t pay your bills despite working eighty-hour weeks at your two jobs. Half your income goes right to the babysitter and you’re left living off one minimum-wage job. If she takes a day off you’re stuck without a way to watch your kids and you have to take the hit to your income. The judgment, the hatred with you use your SNAP card at the grocery store. The raised noses, the annoyance when you cash your FIP checks. You’re a drain on society, you don’t deserve to be living off of their tax dollars, their money. You want more, you want better, but you’re worthless. If no one believes in you, why should you believe in yourself?
You sign up for Family Development and Supportive Services and learn how to strengthen the relationship with your infant, develop as a parent and find resources in your community. Your three to five year old can attend free preschool through Head Start and get the education they need to be prepared for kindergarten. There they are fed at least two meals a day. The rest of your food can be purchased through SHARE, a low-cost food option that takes your EBT, and a few times a year you visit the Lord’s Cupboard Food Pantry. In the summer you can participate in Seeds of Hope; planting and tending to your own garden plot that produces fresh fruits and vegetables for your family.
To pay your utility bills you sign up for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and they help you pay your heat bill during the frigid Iowa winters that force your ancient furnace into overdrive. Your electric bill, already high from the summer, gets the money you intended for your gas bill, and you’re caught up by the time the frigid weather finally retreats for the year. You’re selected for Weatherization, and your home is inspected, the furnace replaced with an energy efficient one, and that door that never sealed quite right is repaired. You kick your smoking habit with the prevention program helping you find resources and alternative stress coping mechanisms and save yourself the cost of cigarettes each month.
You have workers who believe in you. Children who are fed, well cared for, and had Christmas presents this year. Your bills are taken care of, and your home is safe and efficient. You aren’t worthless. You are capable. You can handle change. You can go to school and get a certificate, a degree and find a job with better hours and pay for your family. You can do this because your community believed in you and took action. That is community action.