To Win the Fight, We Need More Than Safety Nets: One Supporter’s Story

Date: August 26, 2017

If you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you’re active in the fight for your community’s health and well-being. But if you see the same people coming into that soup kitchen day after day, it may not feel like you’re winning in that fight.

When Thomasina “Tomi” Hiers, director of the Baltimore Civic Site, experienced that feeling, she asked herself, “What can I do so these people don’t need to be here at every meal?”

She found the answer in United Way of Central Maryland. “Safety nets like soup kitchens are important, but people must have the right tools—and understand how to use those tools—to not go back into crisis,” she said. “For me, giving to United Way, both financially and with my time, is about supporting that bigger picture.”

Throughout her career, Hiers has always worked to improve communities. Currently, at Baltimore Civic Site (part of the Anne E. Casey Foundation), Hiers leads efforts to ensure children and families across the city are healthy and thriving, with access to community-based services, good jobs, affordable homes and high-quality schools.

In 2011, she joined United Way of Central Maryland’s board and currently serves as its chair elect and co-chair of the programs and outcomes committee, where she has witnessed how United Way encourages organizations to join the fight.

“The thing about United Way is that it’s in a unique position as a facilitator,” Hiers said. “It’s able to get all these other organizations together to help people help themselves. It takes a team effort to solve tough problems in the community, and they’re the folks who can get people in a room to have a conversation. To me, that’s pretty powerful.”

Through the years, she has encouraged others to join the fight, whether through monetary donations or volunteering at an event, such as Project Homeless Connect. “It’s pretty amazing to be at an event and stare into the faces of people who embody the changes you want to see,” she said. “Or to talk with a teenage mother or father who are working, and balancing school and family issues while supporting their child. It helps make the work real.”

Learn how you can join the fight for education, financial stability and health.

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