Rachel's Story

Mascoma Savings Bank employee, Rachel Lazar, found herself and her family in a financial crisis when her husband lost employment earlier this year. She didn’t have to look far for help since Angel Hudson from Granite United Way’s Working Bridges program in the Upper Valley was making office visits to her branch as an in-house resource.

“When I met with Angel I was in such a state of crisis. We have an infant son and just bought our home. I wasn’t sure how we would manage,” said Rachel. “Her calmness was reassuring and I felt a huge weight lifted. She helped us navigate through our situation and even helped my husband find a new job.”

Angel Hudson and Prudence Pease are the “faces” of Granite United Way’s Working Bridges program, an employer collaborative convened by United Way dedicated to improving workplace productivity, retention, advancement, and financial stability for employees. On average, they see more than 130 clients each month. By minimizing employment barriers and maximizing supports, the program gives employees the tools they need to be successful. The program has recently expanded to ten companies: Alice Peck Day, Hypertherm, Kendal at Hanover, King Arthur Flour, Simon Pearce, Coop Food Stores, Dartmouth College, Mascoma Savings Bank, Mount Ascutney Hospital, and Timken.

“Working Bridges offers Mascoma Savings Bank employees critical resources to reduce instability in their home lives – making their lives better and making it easier to bring their best selves to their work,” said Clay Adams, CEO of Mascoma Savings Bank. “Granite United Way’s Working Bridges Program is a valuable resource to Upper Valley employers and employees.”

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The Reilly Family

With the headlines focused on alarming numbers of individuals overdosing in their community, combined with their own personal family tragedy, Joe and Venetia Reilly turned to Granite United Way to see where they could help.

As long-time Alexis de Tocqueville supporters of Granite United Way, the pair were familiar with the way the organization brought together the right teams to solve complex community issues.

“We knew this was the time we could expand our giving and really contribute to some of the positive work being done to promote prevention of substance misuse,” said Joe. “After losing my nephew to an overdose, and then my sister to the grief that resulted from that, Venetia and I wanted to make sure there was access to prevention and treatment programs.”

One of the areas the Reilly’s $100,000 gift is invested in is Safe Station, the life-saving concept launched in Manchester and also featured in the city’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The program is also complemented by 2-1-1NH, where callers can be directly connected with treatment. Their gift also concentrates on prevention, helping to establish several new permanent drop boxes for expired medications and educational programs in the local school system.

“Supporters like Joe and Venetia Reilly are helping us change and save lives every single day,” said Manchester Fire Chief Daniel Goonan. “We have had more than 2,000 walk through the doors since we started this program. It shows how we can make a change by working together.”

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Melissa's Story

Click here to view Melissa's success story!

When it came time for Melissa to purchase her first home she did everything right to make sure it was a solid investment. Unfortunately, she found herself in a bad relationship that nearly caused her to lose her new home. After speaking to a 2-1-1 NH call specialist, Melissa was connected to Home Help NH and the legal resources she needed to get back on track. Thanks to the help she received from 2-1-1 NH, Melissa sent in the final loan modification payment on August 31, 2017, and was able to save her home.

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Sabrina's Story

Sometimes Sabrina Gingras looks back at her younger self and cannot even recognize that person. This accomplished mother of two was once a young teenager who was heading down a dark path.

Following a series of poor choices and running with a group of friends misusing drugs and alcohol, Sabrina had found herself expelled from high school. Her family rallied and enrolled her in an alternative high school to ensure her education continued. There she was separated from the toxic environment and began to thrive with the programs and resources available to her.  Eventually, she reintegrated into Concord High School and graduated with her peers.
“There is a serious epidemic of substance misuse in our young people,” said Sabrina. “Since I’ve graduated there have been six deaths in our class. It’s devastating and makes me grateful that my family and community were there for me. I cannot imagine missing out on the life I have now.”
Sabrina continued to challenge herself after high school and graduated from New England College with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Child Development. In addition to her schoolwork she volunteered at several local non profits including the Live & Let Live farm and the Boys & Girls Club of Concord. She also served as a Loaned Executive for Granite United Way.
“These are some of the programs that helped me get through high school and I wanted to give back. I still keep in touch with the teachers and directors who helped change the trajectory of my life,” said Sabrina. “I’m proof that you can overcome anything. And when you do, it’s time to give back so others can have the same opportunity to change that I did.”

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John's Story

Spend an hour with John Nitanga and you'll be inspired. His family survived the genocide in Rwanda and spent 13 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania. After enduring deplorable conditions, John's family had the opportunity to come to the United States. Arriving here as a young student, John had never spoke English before. Soon, he enrolled in the Bring It! program that he credits with changing his life. He learned the English language, benefited from the specialized program for refugees and excelled in soccer.

After graduating from high school and becoming a United States citizen he became a Loaned Executive for Granite United Way. "I am happy to give back to the community that gave me so much," said John. "There are many stories like mine. I want to make sure there is access to programs and services so that other young people have the opportunity I did."

He's not showing any signs of stopping. This fall he's enrolled to obtain his Bachelor's degree at Southern New Hampshire University. We can't wait to see how bright John's future will be.


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Madisen's Story

Together we are saving lives. Madisen Peterson had no idea how his life was about to change in October 2016 when he made the choice to walk into the Manchester Central Fire Station for substance misuse treatment through the Safe Station program, an innovative concept launched in Manchester that enables individuals facing addiction to enter any fire station in the city and immediately access treatment services.

Madisen first started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana at the age of fourteen. During high school, peer pressure led to experimenting with more drugs like cocaine, opiates, and eventually, heroin. “When you’re a teenager you want to try everything once,” said Madisen. “But once is too many.”

For the next six years, Madisen struggled with heroin. Retreating from friends and family, he sold his most valuable possessions, and became a person he no longer recognized. After learning about the Safe Station program through social media, his mother offered to drive him to the fire house. Through this program, his life
changed when he entered Serenity Place, a partner agency offering treatment and recovery services.

“If it weren’t for the Safe Station program, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Madisen. “Now I am working at Serenity Place and am able to help others make the same positive changes I have. It saved my life.”

Unfortunately, Madisen’s story is not unique. Granite United Way serves as the lead for three out of the thirteen Regional Public Health Networks in New Hampshire, including the Capital Area Public Health Network, the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, and the South Central Public Health Network. Through these
networks, we serve 54 communities and reach over 600 New Hampshire residents annually. We are supporting the development of a robust continuum of care to provide access to prevention, treatment, and recovery.

View Madisen's video success story here.

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Jane's Story

The phone never stops ringing, because there is always someone in need. This year, the 2-1-1 New Hampshire team answered more than 40,000 calls from residents seeking resources for critical needs like fuel assistance, legal help and emergency housing.

Jane Davis was one of those callers. After a dishonest contractor abandoned her major home renovation project mid-way, she was left with her beloved home torn apart and without the funds to complete the project. In jeopardy of foreclosure, 2-1-1 helped connect her with the Home Help NH foreclosure prevention program.

“I was overwhelmed and felt like I had run out of options. I bought that home as a single mom and raised my son there. I didn’t want to lose it,” said Jane. “When I called 2-1-1, the person on the other end of the line helped me connect with the Home Help NH program where I was eligible for a mortgage modification that saved my home from foreclosure.”

“I have referred people to 2-1-1 many times. It is one of New Hampshire’s greatest resources and it is so simple to remember,” said Jane. “A call to 
2-1-1 helped me save my home.”

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A Financial Coach for the Upper Valley

One of the most powerful roles Granite United Way plays is as a convener – and some of the work we are doing in the Upper Valley is a great example of that. For the past year, financially vulnerable clients at four Upper Valley nonprofits – LISTEN Community Services, Twin Pines Housing Trust, Upper Valley Haven, and WISE – have had access to a financial coach, courtesy of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB.)

Suzanne Stofflet, Senior Director of Community Impact at Granite United Way, initially saw this federal program as a collaborative opportunity and worked with the four nonprofits to apply for the coach. The Upper Valley group is one of sixty diverse partner organizations, and the only collaboration that was selected to host a financial coach.

Megan Sather is a trained financial professional who serves as the area’s financial coach. She offers clients the opportunity to sit with her and receive customized guidance that is tailored to each individual’s unique situation.

“As a result of this guidance, we are seeing clients achieve stable housing; many for the first time in their lives. This program is without a doubt a success.” said Kyle Fisher, Administrative Director of LISTEN Community Services.

The synergy from this effort can be seen in the results. To date, 65% of clients have improved their financial capability and 99% are actively pursuing or have completed their individual goals. The Upper Valley program has proven to be one of the most successful in the nation.

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Leader in Me Program

Gossler Park Elementary School Principal, Lori Upham, started receiving some unusual calls from parents last fall when the “Leader in Me” program was initiated at her school.

“They wanted to know what was causing their children to do their homework, help put away dishes, and clean their rooms without being asked,” said Upham. “It’s incredible what this program has awakened in these students – a sense of pride and ownership of their actions.”

The program is based on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and was implemented at the Gossler Park Elementary School in partnership with the City of Manchester Health Department through the Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy (NHIS), funded in part by Granite United Way and other local and national sources.

“Dovetail Leadership,” a similar program that establishes leadership skills, was implemented at the Beech Street School this fall. Both schools are Community Schools as part of the Manchester Community Schools Project. The NHIS has also brought other support into the school community like parenting courses and the “Hi-SET” program, a high school equivalency test. Four adults have successfully completed this program, and twenty more are in the process of it.

The Manchester’s Neighborhood Health Improvement Strategy continues to garner the attention of national funders, including playing a key role in Manchester’s recognition as a recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize.

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