Pathways out of Poverty: Pay it Forward


Dona Ponepinto
Vice President, Community Investments,
Basic Needs and Financial Stability
United Way for Southeastern Michigan

Editor's Note: This blog post is a reprint from "Pathways out of Poverty," a twice-monthly newsletter, authored by Dona Ponepinto, which discusses issues relating to basic needs, such as housing and food, in metro Detroit and beyond. United Way for Southeastern Michigan distributes "Pathways out of Poverty" without charge to people with an interest in basic needs. If you are interested in subscribing, please click here.

If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.”
― Mother Teresa

Several weeks ago my husband, Joe, a writer, focused one of his weekly Saturday Morning Post blogs on the idea of writers helping writers, a variation of Pay it Forward

My first thought was, I am going to steal this idea. Then I started thinking, when was the last time I paid it forward? In my professional life, I spend much of my day working with a variety of partners in the community, focused on how to solve some of the pressing issues in our region. It makes it easy for me to lose sight of the idea of people helping people, one person at a time. I sometimes have to remind myself that this how we will ultimately solve many of the issues that face struggling families every day. I am a lifelong community volunteer and have always found time to give back. One way I pay it forward is after every party at my home, I donate food to a local homeless shelter.

So, what can each of us do to pay it forward? We can LIVE UNITED each and every day, by giving of ourselves. This doesn't necessarily mean, saving the world, but just helping a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker or a stranger on the street. It’s one small act of kindness at a time, but multiplied by thousands of people, it leaves a lasting impression.

Despite the size of our organization, this is what United Way for Southeastern Michigan believes. Our Microgrant Initiative is one way in which we are helping one person at a time. Since January, more than 20 microgrants have been awarded to clients who participate at one of our Centers for Working Families sites. We award grants to individuals (not agencies) who have been struggling and have clear goals about how they want to improve their lives for themselves and their families. All we ask of the recipients is that they use the funds in a way to help support “their dreams.” You can read more about microgrants here.

Now the question is what you will do to “pay it forward?”  How will you LIVE UNITED? What will you do to Give, Advocate and Volunteer this week, next week or every week? Check out Help  for idea, and visit our Take Action page.

I would like to hear from you. Tell me in 50 words or less how you “pay it forward” and share it on our United Way SEM Facebook page. As you think about this, keep the words of our goal in mind: When we reach out a hand to one, we influence the conditions of all. United, we can change what we see in our world. It starts with the power of one.