Empowering cycle breakers

Inaugural ALICE Summit brings inspiration

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

Sometimes being first means bringing others with you, not leaving them behind.

At the inaugural ALICE Summit, Feb. 28, 2023, a woman shared her story of being a cycle breaker. She boldly proclaimed that she is the first homeowner in her family, adding, “and I’m breaking the generational cycle of poverty.”

ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. They often struggle to afford basic needs, such as housing, food, healthcare, childcare, technology and transportation. This makes saving for a rainy day difficult and saving for a downpayment on a house nearly, if not, impossible.

The summit was aimed at bringing together individuals, communities and organizations to rally behind ALICE with strategies for encouraging and empowering additional cycle breakers. Gregory Haile, President of Broward College, stated at the summit that it is unacceptable that any be left behind. We must continuously be asking the question, who are we missing?

The fact is, we need ALICE. ALICE workers serve in some of the most integral jobs in our communities, such as hospitality workers and early childhood educators. They are the backbone to our economy, and when ALICE struggles, the whole community does as well.

At its core, this is what we at United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) focus on. For me, this is what gets me up every morning; my mission to serve. It is why I do what I do. To do this work well, we as a community need to listen to and honor ALICE.

Our community is built around medium and small businesses. However, each year we see more larger businesses coming to Charlotte County. The summit dove into issues for employers to ensure ALICE is supported and thriving. On repeat, the message that was emphasized was that basic human needs are not being met for ALICE – food, childcare and housing. Employees are the best asset for our economy and this human capital deserves the highest priority. UWCC is focused on this through our United at Work program and will continue to explore best practices for supporting and empowering ALICE.

Pre-COVID, 40% of Charlotte County households were struggling to pay monthly bills. Updated numbers will be released late April, giving us a clearer picture of how our community has changed since the pandemic. This data will help inform the work in Charlotte County.

We pride ourselves on the fact that our work at UWCC is data-driven. However, it is important to remember that there is a family or a person behind every data point. When we talk numbers, we are talking about your friends, your family and your neighbors.

Haile poignantly noted that it takes humility to acknowledge that you can’t do it alone. And I humbly ask, will you join us in empowering cycle breakers in Charlotte County?

We welcome your time, talent and treasure in our efforts to mobilize the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty. Please visit our website at unitedwayccfl.org to donate or learn more about how you can volunteer with us.

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.