Where Flowers Bloom, So Does Hope

Sowing the Seeds of Family Empowerment

By Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director

Hydrangeas don’t normally grow down here. Six years ago, my husband brought them home from Becky’s Garden Shoppe. My mom had just died, the anniversary being this week. During my mom’s last days in the hospital, the nurse asked her what she wanted to do when she went home, and mom’s response was to be in her garden.

She passed away before she enjoyed anymore garden moments, her backyard filled to overflowing with hydrangeas. Naturally, I love my hydrangeas and now we have robust bushes that come back every year at exactly this time. Seeing the blooms and remembering my mom literally infuses me with hope anew and gratitude.   

It is moments like this we all need to embrace, and April was an amazing month of moments. Moments for sowing the seeds of Family Empowerment priorities at United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC).  What exactly does that look like?  

Basic needs are met. The work UWCC does with Kids Thrive is foundational; it’s where hope begins to bloom. Thanks to Publix Punta Gorda Crossing, and numerous Charlotte County businesses who invest in the work of UWCC, we accomplished a highly successful drive for Kids Thrive parents. Collecting an estimated $5,971.55 in essential household and hygiene items (my hunch is it was even more that that – see our Facebook posts for photos), 50 families received an average of $119.43 in products. Families are currently choosing among essentials each month, often going without, which is frankly unacceptable in my heart. The parents that came to “shop” our various departments – diapers and wipes, disinfectant cleanser, personal hygiene – were a delight to meet and filled with gratitude. This positive result is important to Women United especially, whose mission is empowering families to raise healthy children. I am thankful to the Women United volunteers who made it happen.

Educational success. Third grade-level reading proficiency is an important predictor of future economic success. One of our partners in Family Empowerment, The Patterson Foundation (TPF), has built a legacy of investments. As we move through summer, we want our blooming young students to avoid the summer slide. UWCC is the lead for TPF in Charlotte County, through mobilizing volunteers and hope for our students.

This Book is Cool, a TPF program, is available to every family in Charlotte County with children in pre-K-3rd grade for the 2024/2025 school year. UWCC takes literacy mentorship seriously and would love to expand our talented cadre of Reading Buddies! It’s easy to be a Reading Buddy and we invite you to join us for the May 14th training. Our goal is 75% of our student participants will be at grade-level reading proficiency by the end of school year 2028. You can help make a difference in the life of a future adult who will become part of our workforce, here in Charlotte County! 

This week at our funding impact panels, I got the opportunity to meet volunteers and people who care about sowing the seeds of goodness. I had the pleasure of meeting one of our Reading Buddies who also volunteered her time at the panel. She had read the column last week about This Book Is Cool and is now excited to sign her three buddies up – each of them recently stating they did not have books in their home. Because of her, and her taking action, they will now receive a backpack full of books.

The seedlings of action items are everywhere, and I love listening to them, seeing the growth of hope for not only the people we serve but in the volunteers who are mobilizing to care for this community.

 You may be mobilized to see things in a different way, and inspired to sow the seeds that make hope bloom!  If you would like to invest in the ‘garden growing’ of Women United and Family Empowerment, OR sign your child up for This Book is Cool OR attend the reading buddy training please visit unitedwayccfl.org/FlowersBloom.

For questions about other ways to invest in the Family Empowerment work at UWCC, please contact Jill Swan at empower@unitedwayccfl.org or 941-627-3539.


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.