CINCINNATI, Ohio (November 29, 2021) — Andreah McAdams was at a point in life where she was hitting her stride.
The single mother of three was working full-time at a child care center. “I didn’t really see it as a career at first, but as time went on, I got lots of great feedback from parents, and I had a waiting list for my classroom,” she said.
She had earned a Child Development Associate credential in 2015. She became a lead pre-K teacher at the child care center in 2018. And she received a scholarship to pursue an associate degree in early childhood education at the University of Cincinnati.
Then came 2020, which began a difficult stretch for Andreah. Although she remained employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, on three occasions she missed substantial time from work. Once, because she was hit by a non-COVID illness, which also caused her to temporarily drop out of UC. Another time, strep throat spread to each of her children. And finally, her family had to quarantine because they were exposed to the coronavirus.
The loss of income from each of those episodes made it impossible for Andreah to make her rent payments. “I am super independent, so when I have to reach out (for help), I almost feel guilty,” she said.
She has been a member of Whitewater Crossing, a church in Cleves, since childhood. It is a place she knows, with people she trusts. The church is among nearly two dozen sponsor organizations for Project Lift, a public/private partnership operated by United Way of Greater Cincinnati and designed to remove barriers so families can achieve financial well-being.
In the past, Andreah had turned to the food pantry at the church’s Life Center. But cash to pay rent was a bigger ask. She met with Dennis Esterkamp, financial coordinator for the Life Center and the church’s Project Lift coordinator. He said Andreah was a good fit for Project Lift; she was working full-time and going to school with the goal of improving her long-term financial stability.
Esterkamp connected Andreah with a Project Lift mentor. Three times, Project Lift helped Andreah pay rent. The total outlay: $1,620.
Such short-term assistance can be crucial in helping people achieve financial stability. Indeed, without that help, Andreah says she probably would have had to apply for high-interest loans. Those would have put her in a financial hole, one she would have struggled to overcome.
“I’m super grateful for getting help when I needed it,” she said. “It gave me a little push to get to where I need to go.”
She is proud that her income, although still modest, has more than doubled since she started working in child care. And that, in December 2020, she earned her associate degree from UC. She then began work on a bachelor’s degree, which one day will lead to more options for advancement. She is on track to complete her second semester in December 2021.
“I’m driven to accomplish this by myself. And I want my kids to be able to look back someday and know that I did it for them.”
Learn more about Project Lift or apply for assistance at uwgc.org/ProjectLift.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [Tax ID: 31-0537502]. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.