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Project Lift Helps Mother of two "Get Over a Hurdle"

Despite working full-time to support her family, Tanika Newell had fallen behind on her bills and it came down to paying rent or paying the heat bill.
August 16, 2021
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock.

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Despite working full-time to support herself and her two young children, Tanika Newell had fallen behind on her electric bills. She worried about having no heat in winter.

The St. Bernard resident is a security guard for a bank. Her workplace was not on a bus line and she did not own a car. So, each day she used a car-for-hire service to get to and from work.

Matters worsened during the pandemic when the child care service that was within walking distance of her apartment closed. "I almost lost my job, because sometimes I had to call off when I couldn't find somebody to watch my children." What is more, when she did find an alternative care provider, they sometimes were far from home. That meant more travel time and additional car-for-hire fees.

Newell says she spent up to $60 a day on transportation, which was a large chunk of her weekly paycheck. Then, after buying food, her choice came down to paying the electric bill or paying rent.

She was caught in a cycle from which she couldn't break free. She tried to stay positive, telling herself, "Somehow, in some way, this is going to work out in my favor."

Newell was pregnant with her second child when she mentioned her transportation dilemma to a staff member at Health Care Access Now. The agency referred Newell to Zion Global Ministries, one of 22 sponsor organizations of Project Lift, a public/private partnership operated by United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Its chief task: remove barriers to securing sustainable income so families can achieve financial stability.

Judith Warren is executive director of Zion Global Missions, the nonprofit arm of Zion Global Ministries. She says Newell had been unable to save money to buy a car because of her delinquent electric bills.

She says Project Lift is aptly named. "It gives people that lift not just to get by, but to get over a hurdle that's staring them in the face every day."

In Newell's case, the solution was simple and inexpensive: Project Lift paid her electric bills.

"That really put me back on track," Newell says. "I got back on my feet."

Then, she was able to put her tax refund money toward the purchase of a car, which eliminated the need to pay hundreds of dollars a week in car-for-hire fees. "That made a huge difference," Newell says, "because I'm saving money." And after receiving a raise at work, her finances solidified further.

Newell needed a support system which Project Lift provided, she says. Warren added the human element of Project Lift helped, too.

"She asked, 'How can I help you?'" Newell says. "I don't hear that often in my life. So, for a person and an organization to ask what they can do for me, that's a blessing. I'm very appreciative."

Learn more about Project Lift or apply for assistance at uwgc.org/ProjectLift.


Support Project Lift

An investment in United Way is an investment in your neighbors and your community. We create and support a number of initiatives, including ones like Project Lift, that help families in need not only get out of a crisis but also puts them on a path to sustained economic mobility.

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