SECC helps many people in need

Linda was born and reared in Chapel Hill, came from a good family, graduated from high school, had a son and enjoyed her job.

Wanting desperately to get out of public housing and into her own place, and make enough to afford $350 per month in rent, she moved to a trailer and set up home. Within nine months she and her son were evicted and on the street: a homeless single parent.

"I never thought it could happen to me," Linda said. "I've lived here all my life and thought I was doing pretty good. Then, it all fell apart."

Linda didn't think she had the kind of problems that most people in homeless shelters have. She wasn't sure what she needed; feeling more a victim of circumstances with depression and bad luck her curse, rather than of substance abuse or violence or a health problem. But by going to the Interfaith Community House on Rosemary Street she felt she had a better chance of pulling through than just going home to live with her mom.

"The shelter was more than a bed, hot showers and three meals a day," Linda said. "They helped me with stress. They kept us off the street. They gave us great medical care and vouchers for clothes. They put discipline in my life and helped me take better care of my son."

Instead of giving up, the shelter helped hold her up until Linda could get on her feet again. After spending two months there she went back to public housing for a year.

She now owns a trailer, works at a day-care center and has almost completed schooling to earn her certificate in early childhood education.

"I cycled through the `projects' twice, and I know I don't want to go back there again," she said. "I'm on a high road now and don't want to turn back."

Linda's story is a credit to the service that the Interfaith Council provides. And it is a testimony to programs like the State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC), which last year contributed $28,500 to the Interfaith Council.

Carolina and UNC Hospitals are major supporters of this effort -- this year hoping to contribute $830,000 by Nov. 5 for the organizations that participate in the SECC. Last year more than 5,000 faculty and staff participated.

"Linda was pretty motivated and already had some skills to build on," said Kristin Lavergne, her case manager at the shelter. "We helped her make a plan, follow it through, save some money and get back on her own. For others, things are usually more crisis oriented, but our goals are the same: to get them on their feet again."

Participating in SECC directly helps people in need by supporting organizations such as the council, United Way, Ronald McDonald House and the American Cancer Society. For more information about this year's fund-raising effort for SECC, call Melanie York, Carolina's SECC communications coordinator, at 2-4515.

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