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Live United: The magic of local social service agencies living united

Live United by Erin Haag

Some magic happened this past couple of weeks. I’ve been writing this story in my head as the events unfolded, thinking about how to explain exactly how all the pieces lined up between professional and personal worlds, and the power of social workers who go above and beyond to get a family what is needed. The power of a business who stands up and says they’ll help.

Erin Haag

Last fall, a family that needed a variety of services was identified by us. Nikolle put on her super sharp social work hat and got the correct forms signed to be able to share information. Information was shared across three different agencies to centralize services for this family that had significant barriers.

When the mother came to pick up winter gear last fall, she walked into our space and saw what we had for her. She threw up her hands and smiled and said, “It’s beautiful!” That moment etched itself onto Nikolle’s heart and became one of her “Why’s.” From what I’ve seen, similar moments with this same family have been experienced with other colleagues working to help provide services in education, basic needs and health care.

It’s little wonder that a colleague working with the family turned to Nikolle to express her concerns and commiserate a little bit. The colleague had discovered that the family had been exposed to bugs in the home. While the source of contamination was removed, it was discovered that the family had a broken washing machine. For a variety of reasons, a laundromat was a challenge.

Later that afternoon, a mutual friend of Nikolle and I posted on social media that she had a free washing machine. Nikolle called me and said, “Did you see this?”

Magic, right? But that magic came with a little bit of work. The washing machine was in a basement. The friend is a social worker, and we wanted to protect her privacy. We wanted to protect the family’s privacy. We also had concerns about the family’s ability to hook up the washing machine correctly. All of these barriers seemed to be a deal breaker for this.

Then TNT Appliance stepped in. There was no hesitation, and they agreed to pick up the washing machine, deliver it to the family’s home and hook it up correctly. It’s something that they do every single day. What’s simple to them has a huge impact on this family, and our organization’s ability to be able to pull the pieces together to make things work.

A huge kudos to Nikolle and our partners over at Public Health for pulling this together. For being the listening ear to a professional friend, for recognizing the barriers that needed to be resolved and making a plan to reduce those barriers.  I’m proud to have her as a resource in our office and proud that our partners recognize the value of sharing our burdens and problem solving together.

Come on — say it with me now — that is living united. Being able to brainstorm, exchange ideas on how to help and then put that plan into action. 

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.