Ken was a single dad experiencing tough times, but United Way agencies helped him get back on his feet—and now he pays it forward.

“I grew up in Canada and was able to take advantage of the opportunity that provided me. I went to school, got a post-secondary education, worked and had a family. I thought I did all of the right things.

When my wife and I welcomed our second child, I was a sales representative and moving up the corporate ladder, everything was good. Then I came home one day and my wife said, ‘Married life is not for me. So long.’ This was a life-changing event, but I had a good job and I thought in time we would be okay.

I’ve paid the babysitter. I’ve paid the rent. Now how do I feed and clothe these kids?

Then I was laid off. I thought with my experience I’d be able to find a job anywhere, but that didn’t happen. I ended up getting a job pumping gas. I was making minimum wage, which worked out to just $1,000 per month at the time. After rent and childcare was paid there wasn’t anything left. I would think, ‘I’ve paid the babysitter. I’ve paid the rent. Now how do I feed and clothe these kids?’ I didn’t have any money for groceries. At the time, my youngest was just over three months old, and my oldest was a toddler. I felt like I was failing them.

One of my neighbours took me to a United Way-supported food program. I had the kids with me, and I’ll always remember that little red logo. I was able to feed my children. I could get clothing for them.

The money helps people like me

I honestly don’t know where my children and I would have gone if it hadn’t been for United Way. For the longest time, I never understood what the phrase “the working poor” meant. I had always felt that it was people who didn’t want to work. After being put in that situation, I realized that’s not always the case. The working poor are people, real people, who have to work two or three jobs because of circumstances that are beyond their control.

Once things turned around for me, I remembered that little red logo. I felt the need to give back, so donations come off my pay cheque on a weekly basis. The money helps people like me.”