A Community Connected

Supporting Both Citizens and Organizations in Charlotte County.

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director - United Way of Charlotte County

Six years have passed since I became the Executive Director of United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC), and it’s almost surreal to reflect on the journey that brought us to this point. Carrie Walsh, my predecessor, bid farewell to her role at UWCC and embarked on a new adventure as the Charlotte County Human Services Director. Those six years have seen remarkable transformation and tireless dedication. Carrie was not only my boss, but mentor at UWCC, and she always lit the path with her unwavering passion, which has always been an inspiration to me.

The Family Services Center (FSC) project was a vision long before Carrie stepped into the role with the county. I’m convinced she was handpicked because the county’s leadership knew she possessed the tenacity and vision to turn this dream into a reality. The County Commissioners shared this dream – a facility that would truly serve the citizens while championing the amazing community agencies who are focused on caring for those citizens.

Phase 1 of the FSC opened several years ago and before the year’s end, Phase 2 will be completed. To say the journey was long and challenging is an understatement. Along the way, we faced a global pandemic, a hurricane or two and numerous other disruptions. Nevertheless, Carrie and her team have stayed with it and our county can be proud of the gem that is the FSC – a community hub supporting the citizens in Charlotte County.

The designed intention from the start was that its partner organizations would commit to working together. Currently, 15 organizations find their home at the FSC, and the integrated Client Services model encourages organizations to work together, all with a singular focus on helping the clients who come seeking assistance. Carrie Walsh describes the vision: “By wrapping our collective arms around that family, we can address issues more holistically and they can bounce back more quickly”.

UWCC’s mission is clear: mobilize the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty. Our role at FSC is to mobilize people and resources to support the partners housed there and clients seeking services.

The VITA program is just one example. Since Phase 1’s opening, VITA has thrived, serving hundreds of residents with free tax services. With the expanded space in Phase 2, these numbers will surely increase.

In addition to hosting the VITA program, UWCC is assisting the FSC with volunteer recruitment. Once Phase 2 opens, there will be a tremendous need to assist visitors in finding their way to the right agency partner. I have a feeling there are lots of folks living in Charlotte County who have some hours to spare and who like to smile. Brightening someone else’s day is such a gift. A listing of volunteer needs for each partner will be provided soon.

Lastly, I invite you to attend The Senior Holiday Social Event on December 14 from 10 am to 1 pm. Who doesn’t love Christmas Carols, refreshments, and holiday cheer? Hosted at the Family Services Center by the partners.

Walsh states, “We are a hub for our community, a place to connect and feel supported.  We host neighborhood watch meetings, provide food, financial assistance, mental health services, after-school care, health services, life-skills, case management, support groups, cooking classes… the sky is the limit.”

The realization of this long-held dream enriches our community immeasurably. No matter the challenges we face, together we shall thrive and continue to spread hope and support throughout Charlotte County. Congratulations to everyone who has made this happen.

The opportunities to give back are endless: being a greeter and way finder for the FSC; attending the Senior Holiday Social; and even donating items for the Senior Holiday Social such as new, unused items for gift bags, including puzzle books, Christmas ornaments, scarves, and hygiene items.

You can take action on any of the above by emailing Gail McKee at inspire@unitedwayccfl.org or calling her at 941-627-3539.

To learn more about the Family Services Center, please visit here.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.