Live United: The magic of living together for local social agencies – Albert Lea Tribune

Live United by Erin Haag

A bit of magic has happened in recent weeks. I wrote this story in my head as the events unfolded, thinking about how to explain exactly how all the pieces aligned between the professional and personal worlds, and the power of social workers who go above and beyond to start a family which is necessary. The power of a business that stands up and says it’s going to help it.

Erin Haag

Last fall we identified a family in need of various services. Nikolle put on her super sharp social work hat and got the correct forms signed so she could share information. Information was shared between three different organizations in order to centralize services for this family, which presented significant obstacles.

When the mom came to pick up some winter clothes last fall, she walked into our space and saw what we had for her. She raised her hands, smiled and said, “It’s beautiful! This moment was engraved in Nikolle’s heart and became one of her “Why’s”. From what I have seen, similar times with this same family were experienced with other colleagues working to help provide education, basic needs and health care services.

It’s no wonder a colleague working with the family turned to Nikolle to voice his concerns and sympathize a bit. The coworker had discovered that the family had been exposed to insects in the house. While the source of contamination was removed, it was discovered that the family had a broken washing machine. For various reasons, a laundromat was a challenge.

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

Magic, isn’t it? But that magic came with a little 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 privacy of the family. We also had concerns about the family’s ability to properly plug in the washing machine. All of these barriers seemed like a deal breaker for it.

Then TNT Appliance intervened. There was no hesitation, and they agreed to pick up the washing machine, deliver it to the family’s home, and plug it in properly. It’s something they do every day. What is simple for them has a huge impact on this family and on our organization’s ability to put the pieces together to make things work.

Kudos to Nikolle and our public health partners for getting all of this in place. For listening to a professional friend, for recognizing the obstacles that needed to be resolved, and for making a plan to reduce those obstacles. I am proud to have him as a resource in our office and proud that our partners recognize the value of sharing our burdens and solving problems together.

Come on – say it with me now – this it is to live in solidarity. To be able to reflect, 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.


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Gail Mena

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