Over the past several months, the community has joined United Way in a series of Community Conversations. These conversations provide an opportunity for diverse members of our community to come together to discuss, in particular, the issues facing hard working families in our community.
Please note that I said hard working families. We are talking about families who go to work every day trying to create a good life for their family but still struggle to make ends meet. These are not people living off the system but are those who work hard, sometimes working two jobs but still can’t make enough to provide for their families. The reality is we have over 40,000 families in our community who are classified as struggling hard working families (those who make less than $25,000 a year).
One young family’s story who attended a Community Conversation truly affected me. This family told us in detail of the fear they felt everyday living in our community. They were surrounded by drug dealers living in their apartment complex. Their children could not go outside because of drug paraphernalia littering the hallways. They felt they couldn’t notify the police because threat of retaliation. When asked if they felt hope for the future this young couple looked at each other for a minute, shrugged their shoulders and said they couldn’t decide if they had hope for their family’s future.
Their reaction to this question staggered me. If we don’t have hope, what do we have, especially here in Northwest Arkansas where many families thrive? The reality is there are many families who struggle to provide a good life through no fault of their own. They work hard every day, but still face barriers that prevent them from feeling that sense of hope and accomplishment.
As a community, we need to recognize the challenges these families face and look at the barriers that keep them from being successful. And that is exactly what United Way is doing. As a community we all need to step out of our comfort zone and work together to tear down barriers so more in our community can say they are hopeful for their family’s future. Please stay tuned as we work to expose those barriers and ask the community to step up and help make a change.
Jill Darling, President