Navigating out of poverty

What we learned about the needs and gaps in Charlotte County

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

In the late 1950s, scientists who were following the orbit of the Russian satellite Sputnik noticed the Doppler Effect in operation. This concept explains how the frequency of radio signals that were transmitted by the satellite increased as it approached, and the signal frequency decreased as it moved further away. The Doppler Effect as it relates to satellite positioning is what makes our modern-day GPS work.

While your most frequent use of GPS might be to determine the fastest route to a nearby ice cream shop, it has bigger uses, such as for military intelligence and to direct long-haul tractor trailer drivers for timely delivery of goods across the U.S.

GPS requires at least four satellites to be visible for accurate navigation. Similarly, at United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC), we can navigate the road to impact much better when we have multiple partners working in alignment.

Last summer, we convened several collaborative planning sessions with a variety of health and human service partners in Charlotte County. What we learned during those sessions has guided UWCC’s new strategic focus.

Not surprisingly, we learned that despite our best efforts, there are many in our community who are struggling to meet basic needs. This includes a large senior population that is living on fixed incomes. Charlotte County boasts many incredible social service organizations who help to meet these needs, as residents are able to access them. What we learned was that those who are struggling the most in our community are the ones who also struggle with navigating their way to and through the available resources.

There is no GPS for navigating your way out of poverty.

An overall lack of human connection, be that through communication or navigation, was noted. Our senior population struggles with isolation, and many others do as well.

What we learned was that the cost of living is too much for the primarily service industry workforce that resides in Charlotte County. Affordable housing, childcare, healthcare and food have become luxuries instead of necessities.

What we learned was that multi-generational trauma has created increased behavioral health needs that often inhibit an individual’s ability to prioritize and access resources. Communication and navigation needs were a recurring them throughout our planning sessions.

What we learned was that our children deserve to have an entire community wrapping their arms around them, offering guidance and support. Especially following Hurricane Ian, there are not enough quality early learning, after-school and extracurricular programs. Children struggle with transitions across grade levels, attendance and parent engagement need improvement and, by-and-large, our students are not reading on grade level by third grade.

Some of the most pressing issues identified were:  basic needs (food, childcare, housing, financial assistance), steps to self-sufficiency (both through education and financial means), senior issues (isolation, navigation) and overall lack of communication and navigation for families in need.

What we learned from these pre-Ian conversations brought clarity to the UWCC planning team. We are aware that the issues that were discussed are even more pronounced following Hurricane Ian.

From these items, UWCC has developed a set of specific strategic priorities that will guide our work and our funding in the years ahead. Our mission is to mobilize the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, and we intend to use a focused route to fulfill this mission.

Won’t you join us?

Be sure to read our Daily Sun columns over the next few weeks for more details on the priorities, our newly funded programs – putting funds where they are needed most – and how we will be offering more opportunities and support to our senior population.

Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) to stay connected on a daily basis with ways you can be involved.

And sign up at to be on our volunteer list for events like Day of Caring, Kindergarten Readiness Bag stuffing and more!

There is no GPS to help our friends, family and neighbors navigate their way out of poverty. But if you will mobilize with us, we can come together in alignment to make a collective impact on their behalf.

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