'United Way Honestly Really Saved Me'

COVID-19 Relief Fund helps thousands in our county

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Ericka Craig had her life on track before COVID-19 caused the economic shut down in the county, state and country.

She had been employed at Amazing Joes for about a year and a half in March 2020. The job provided financial security to herself and two young daughters while she completed her high school diploma and dreamed about the Ivy Tech classes she needs to make her a nurse.

“I was able to take care of what I wanted to take care of everyday and then able to save as well sometimes,” she said.

One day in mid-March, she was getting ready for her shift at Amazing Joes; looking forward to chatting with her favorite regular customers. While watching the news, she saw the Governor had ordered restaurants to go carry-out only.

“I was shocked really, I am 25 years-old and I have never, ever experienced anything like this in my whole life,” she said.  

Amazing Joes tried carry-out only but eventually decided to close for the duration of the social distancing orders.  

She knew she would need help feeding her daughters and paying her rent. The woman who worked hard to achieve self-sufficiency was now unemployed.

She applied for food stamps so her two daughters would always have food, although Ericka herself went without when food stamps ran out.

Rent came due. She knew her landlord could not evict her during the pandemic. She also knew that while she had a home, the rent she didn’t pay now would be due later.

United Way was there for her when she was scared of a big rent bill over the summer that would throw her budget into chaos to pay. She received rental assistance from United Way’s COVID-19 Relief Fund by calling United Way’s financial stability manager who helped her get back on track.

Part of United Way of Bartholomew County’s mission is to provide resources to partner agencies who work to make sure everyone has access to health, education and a quality education.

The COVID-19 Relief Fund was launched in March and has since raised more than half a million dollars locally to help people like Ericka get their basic needs met.

Ericka, like many other recipients of help from the COVID-19 Relief Fund, had really never asked for assistance before. But she and others were spun into economic uncertainty through no fault of their own.

“The COVID made it where I had to ask for help. I hate asking for help,” Ericka said.

Now, when she starts back up at Amazing Joes she will be able to continue being self- sufficient without facing a large back dated rent bill.

“United Way honestly really saved me, because I would not be able to pay anything without it,” she said.

Ericka was used to being self-sufficient before COVID-19 rocked her economic future.

She worked two jobs as a teenager so she could have the resources to become financially stable. In early 2019, she had two daughters to feed and no reliable transportation. She marched into Amazing Joes looking for a job, because it was within walking distance to her home, a must with her transportation situation.

The job became a job she loved. The daily tips allowed her to pay bills and get needed things for her daughters and the owner and other employees became family.  

She is also working on her GED and is planning on taking classes to get a degree in nursing from Ivy-Tech. She hopes to get back to work when Amazing Joes opens after the pandemic.

Help from the COVID-19 Relief Fund through United Way helped remove her barriers that stopped her from becoming self-sufficient and financially stable.

“I would recommend United Way to anyone who needs help."