When you give through United Way,
you invest in what matters:
successful children, strong families
and a thriving community.
United Way Logo
about us: changing lives: strong families

What Matters: Strengthening families and the neighborhoods they live in

Making Connections in Hartford LogoMobilizing the caring power of the community…

United Way of the Capital Area, through Community Investment, is a partner with the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) in the Hartford Making Connections initiative. Making Connections, a national initiative of AECF, is committed to improving the lives of children by strengthening families and their neighborhoods. Hartford is one of 10 cities in the United States that is receiving 10 to 15 years of funding and technical assistance from AECF to support the Making Connections initiative.


to create sustained community changes …

Recently the Hartford Making Connections initiative published The High Cost of Being Poor in Hartford study, which reveals the challenges faced by Hartford’s poor in getting ahead and saving for the future. The report will be used by local nonprofit organizations and policy makers to reduce poverty in the city. To aid those efforts, Making Connections has helped set up www.HartfordInfo.org, which provides a wealth of data and reports about housing, education, neighborhood initiatives, and employment in the city.


Photo of Mother and Child… and improve lives.

To increase families’ income and savings, current efforts underway include the possible development of a locally-managed community credit union, which will provide residents with access to fee-free banking. Hartford Making Connections is also working to increase the number of Hartford residents that receive the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, participate in financial education programs and enroll in Individual Development Accounts (which help individuals save for education or a house). To strengthen social networks and help individuals recognize their strengths, a Time Dollar initiative is also planned. Time Dollar builds community by establishing a network of friends and neighbors who volunteer their time and talents and who, in turn, tap into this network for services they might need.


Through United Way’s Community Investment and its partners, neighborhoods and families in Hartford are stronger. Community Investment is the pool of undesignated dollars donated through the United Way Community Campaign.

In addition to the Hartford Making Connections initiative, United Way’s Community Investment supports other local programs that improve the lives of children and their families and strengthen communities, such as:

  • Connecticut Policy and Economic Council’s City Scan program,

  • Mi Casa’s cultural programs, and

  • Prevent Child Abuse Connecticut’s parental education programs.

Courage Award presented to young Windsor mother who helped herself and now helps other victims of domestic violence


Heather Major, recipient of the United Way Community Campaign’s 2004 Courage Award

Heather Major, recipient of the United Way Community Campaign’s 2004 Courage Award is shown here with her daughter and Community Campaign Chairman Grant Kurtz, chairman emeritus of Advest Group.

(Hartford, Conn.), Heather Major of Windsor received the United Way Community Campaign’s eleventh annual Courage Award on Friday, June 18, 2004. The award is presented annually to an individual who has triumphed over adversity with the assistance of an agency funded through the United Way Community Campaign.

Major is a family violence victim advocate who works in the courts for Interval House, the state’s largest nonprofit domestic violence intervention and prevention organization. She knows how to help victims and their families, in part, because she received help for herself and her young daughter five years ago.

After three years of being in an abusive relationship that began when she was 17, Major called the Manchester police after receiving a threatening phone call from her young child’s father. “Making that phone call was the single most courageous thing I’ve ever done,” says Major. “Up until that day I was scared of the repercussions, but on that day, I knew I had to do something to get my daughter and myself out of that situation.”

In addition to a restraining order being issued against the father, Major was contacted by one of Interval House’s victim advocates who talked to Major about safety planning and actions she might want to consider. Her resolve was shaken but not broken when the restraining order was violated on the very same day it was served. But with continuing help from Interval House and personal determination, she followed up on warrants and worked her way through the criminal court system, the family courts and Department of Corrections to make sure she kept herself and her daughter safe.

After resolving her issues, Major felt she wanted to share what she knew about the court system and safety planning with other victims and their families. She enrolled in Manchester Community College and graduated with an associate’s degree in social services in May of 2003. She is currently enrolled at Springfield College, where she is an honors student. She expects to graduate in May of 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in human service.

Four months ago, Major was hired at Interval House. On her first day in court, an accused abuser twice threatened the woman Major was accompanying, right there in the courthouse. Knowing her role as an advocate, Major notified the opposing lawyer, the prosecutor and testified about the threats, resulting in a stiffer sentence being handed down by the judge.

“Today, my daughter and I are happy and safe. She knows I help women who get hurt, as she puts it,” says Major. “Honestly, it’s the best feeling in the world to help someone get out of an abusive relationship and help them feel safe and happy as well.”

The Courage award was presented to Major during the United Way Community Campaign’s training conference for local campaign volunteers entitled Jumpstart 2004. It was held at Capital Community College in Hartford. Grant W. Kurtz, chairman of the 2004 United Way Community Campaign, presented the 2004 Courage Award. Kurtz is chairman and chief executive officer of Advest Group.

United Way created the Courage Award in 1994. Five judges selected this year’s recipient:  Jeffrey Blumenthal of Hartford Life, a member of the board of Community Health Charities; Lisa Curran of the Lincoln Financial Group Foundation; Ricardo Jones of Hamilton Sundstrand; Helene Shay with AFSCME Council 4; and Hartford Courant Columnist Stan Simpson.

Through the United Way Community Campaign, individuals have the opportunity to support the causes and nonprofit organizations that are important to them. In 2003, the United Way Community Campaign raised more then $26 million to help children to succeed, families to be strong and healthy and communities to thrive in our 40-town region.

From offices in Simsbury, Hartford and Manchester, Interval House provides comprehensive services ranging from community education to crisis intervention in 24 towns from Avon to Andover. Interval House staff and volunteers have offered their expertise to victims of domestic violence and their children for more than 26 years. Since 1990, Interval House has helped 140,000 women and children, an average of 10,000 a year.

Courage Award recipients and the agencies from which they received assistance
1994 Harrison McKinstry Greater Hartford Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center
1995 Margaret Khoury East Hartford Visiting Nurse Association
1996 Janet Norton American Red Cross – Central Connecticut Chapter
1997 Randy Moody Connecticut Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse
1998 Joe Roberto American Red Cross – Greater Hartford Chapter
1999 Christopher Montes Lyme Disease Foundation
2000 Patty Haynie North Central Counseling Services
2001 Addie D'Agui Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford
2002 Philip Lual Ajok and Abraham Deng Catholic Charities/Catholic Family Services, Inc.
2003 Jose Gonzalez Boys and Girls Club of Hartford
2004 Heather Major Interval House

Top of page

Price is Right on Job-Training Program

Photo of Maxine Price

Caption: After years of temporary and minimum wage jobs, Maxine Price is all smiles about being on course to a nursing career.

“I’m going to make it. I’ve survived the penny-ante jobs and now, thanks to CNA, I have more to offer.” Those self-assured words come from Maxine Price, a graduate of the YWCA of New Britain & Berlin’s Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA) training program. She is employed at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain. The CNA program trains adult students to provide basic care for long-term and elderly patients. The program began in 1997 at the YWCA, an agency funded through United Way of New Britain and Berlin. The 10-week CAN course is offered three or four times a year to eight to 16 students. The 140 hours of training offered at the Yare more than are required by the state. At the end of the course, the trainees take the Connecticut nurse’s aide exam. When they pass, they are added to the state registry of nurse aides and are eligible for employment.

According to CNA instructor Marge Halleran, many of the program’s students have spent years in minimum wage and temporary jobs prior to entering the program and they want better jobs. “They’ve been laid-off, on and off assistance or under-employed,” says Halleran. “More often than not, these adult students are motivated. They are here because they want to be here.”

“Pounding the pavement” for a job

Price is a case in point. In 1991, she became a divorced mother of an infant with no job training or work experience. For several years she lived with her mother in New Britain and worked as a waitress, at fast-food restaurants or in temporary jobs. In 1997, she heard about and signed up for the CNA training course. After the first two weeks of the course, there is a selection process to determine who will continue in the program. Those selected must have no absences, no problems, and no excuses for why they might not complete the course. Price’s grandmother was ill in New York City at the time and she was going back and forth from New Britain caring for her. Rather than continue in CNA, she took on the responsibility of caring for her grandmother.

Things were looking up for a while. She landed a job as an office assistant at a local company and her grandmother got better. But in less than a year, she was laid off from her job and her mother was diagnosed with kidney failure.

“It was back to the labor department in search of temporary jobs,” says Price of that time period. “To save bus fare, I’d walk downtown at 3:30 a.m. to get in line because the jobs were first come, first served.” Price’s mother was at home with her son. On days her mother had dialysis, Price went with her to the hospital instead of to the labor department.

“I was struggling,” Price says. “This is not what I expected of my life.”

In the summer of 2001, Price took her son to camp at the New Britain-Berlin YMCA each weekday. Rather than go back home, she’d stay downtown all day. Often she went to the Spanish Speaking Center to make phone calls and
to the unemployment office to check for jobs. It was this persistence that caused her phone to ring “out of the clear blue sky one day” and change her life.

The caller said the unemployment office was familiar with her because of her visits there and wondered if she would be interested in entering the CNA course at the YWCA. The caller said the Y remembered Price from her earlier enrollment in the course, especially the fact that she was always so friendly. “You should come into the program,” the caller said. Price says the call was like a dream come true.

Learning changes a life

The first five weeks of the CNA course is classroom instruction. The second half involves clinical experience under a nurse’s instruction. The classes are small so that the students can request and receive extra help if needed. The students also receive help in how to fill out applications and prepare for interviews. If they need assistance with other issues, such as child care, they can be referred to other YWCA programs.

“I’m so grateful to have been selected for the training program,” says Price. “Only once did I have any concerns. It was midway through the classes when it was time to do the skills. I said ‘Oh, my goodness, can I handle this?’ But I held up and did what I had to do.

“I’m just so happy to be working in the medical field. It has helped me understand my grandmother’s and my mother’s illnesses better. Everything was made simple and understandable. I think that if I’d been lucky enough to have a teacher like Marge Halleran when I was in school, I’d be a doctor now.”

Caring manner and CNA training lead to a job

Soon after Price’s CNA training ended, she took her mother for an appointment at the Hospital for Special Care. While there, she picked up a job application. It was a very hot day and on the way out Price’s mother began to feel weak. Price asked a woman in an office for water and a wheelchair. Price cooled and calmed her mother and wheeled her to the car to go home.

The next day, Price returned to the hospital with her application. Coincidentally, it was to be returned to the office in which she requested the water and wheelchair. The woman in the office recognized her from the day before and commented on how impressed she was with the way Price helped and comforted the lady in distress. The woman in the office looked at Price’s application, saw the CNA training and granted Price an interview.

“I was very nervous. I didn’t have any experience yet but I did have very good training so they decided to give me a chance. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned and what people saw in me.”

“If they could see me now, that old gang of mine”

After she was hired, Price was given the choice of working with pediatric or respiratory patients. She chose the respiratory patients because she feels a special affinity to them. Respiratory patients often have a tube in their throats and have to find a way to communicate other than by talking. Price can identify with that.

“I didn’t feel confident speaking until I was 19 years old. I had a speech problem. I saw a speech therapist for five years, but most of the time I just didn’t speak, so I understand what my patients are going through.”

Price says she was fortunate to have classmates and friends who didn’t tease her about not speaking. In fact, they learned to sense what she felt or wanted without words. She says they also protected her.

Price says she had one teacher who tried to help her overcome her speech problem by having her read in front of the class. She says it once took her three class periods to read two pages but her classmates never ridiculed her.

“If they could see me now they’d never believe it. I love to talk now. I believe in miracles. Don’t let anyone tell you they can’t happen.”

Do a good deed every day

Maxine Price says that prior to her CNA training she couldn’t even be hired as a housekeeper in a hospital. Now thanks to her training, she has skills that are marketable and she’s doing a job that she loves.

Price adds that her grandmother taught her to do a good deed every day. “She told me that if you help someone’s loved one, someone will help yours. That’s why, both at home and at work, I try to do a good deed every day.”

Top of page

Independence, One Home at a Time


Interest rates are at record lows, and more Americans are living in their own homes than ever before. Buying a house has never been easier. Yet for individuals who simply do not have the money for a down payment or the income to carry the load of a mortgage, home ownership is a dream.


With the help of two United Way-aided programs, a family in Manchester and an individual in Hartford have seen that dream become a reality. One used a matching funds program to save for a house. The other, a client of the Greater Hartford Association for Retarded Citizens (HARC), bought his home with support from HARC and a new program at Co-op Initiatives.  


A Home of Their Own


Photo of The Johnson family enjoys their spacious new home.

The Johnson family enjoys their spacious new home.

Angela and Sherman Johnson bought an 1,800-square-foot townhouse in Manchester this summer with help from the Hartford IDA Collaborative (HIDAC). Individual development accounts – or IDAs – are part of a national housing initiative that started about six years ago, and is gaining momentum throughout the country. The program has two goals, says Tim Cole, director of the Economic Development Division of Co-Opportunity, Inc., a non-profit agency in the Hartford area that works in the fields of housing, job, and economic development and is the lead agency of HIDAC.


“On an individual level, it exists to help low- and moderate-income people develop or build assets,” he says. “Typically, people in those categories are hobbled not so much by low income but by the fact that they have trouble acquiring and holding onto assets. So this is an asset-building strategy.”


“Second, the program supports and increases home ownership, improves career development opportunities, and strengthens the local economy,” Cole says. National studies already have established that homeownership strengthens family and community bonds. Programs such as the IDA not only help individuals save money toward the purchase of a house, but educate them too, which may, in the end, be the most valuable help of all.


To be considered for participation in the program, a household cannot earn more than 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, and there must be a steady source of income from employment. Once accepted, the money the family deposits into the IDA must be wages and not a gift. Participants may save up to $2,000 for a down payment on a house, as the Johnsons did. The program matches the money, and doubles it. That gave the Johnsons $4,000 in matching money for a total of $6,000 for the down payment on their house.


“We were living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment,” says Angela Johnson, the mother of five boys and a full-time administrative clerk at the state’s office of juvenile detention. “I needed space like, yesterday. And I would say to myself, ‘Oh, my God, we’ll never get a house with five kids and the savings we’ll need.’ Then along came IDA. So we talked to the children and told them, ‘we’re trying to buy a house, we’re going to be making some sacrifices, we can’t do the same things we were doing before we got on this mission.’”


In January 2002, Angela Johnson and her husband, Sherman, who works in film processing, opened their individual development account at the offices of the Community Renewal Team in Hartford, an active partner in the collaborative. They were required to attend a three-hour financial education class once a week for eight weeks, referred to as “our financial training” by Mrs. Johnson. Participants learned about credit issues, how to write a budget, and how to develop their short- and long-term goals.


Once the eight weeks ended, IDA participants were then required to attend lectures once a month for several months with a variety of speakers, including mortgage company and bank representatives.


“I thought the class was excellent, the instructor was very informative,” Mrs. Johnson remembers. “The time went by so fast I never realized I was there three hours. We learned through everyone’s experiences how to better ourselves financially. I would tell anyone – anyone – who is planning to buy a house who can meet the criteria, participate. It is worth every minute that you spend in those classes.”


Agencies involved in the IDAs will say the same thing: Financial education is the answer. “It is interesting,” Cole says. “If you ask me to assess whether the education or the money is of greater value, I would say the education. Sometimes you’re dealing with people who have never had a bank account, never cashed their checks anywhere but the corner check casher, never been inside a bank.”


He applauds member agencies and institutions that have supported the IDA program, including Fleet Bank, the Hartford Courant Foundation, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, People’s Bank, United Way of the Capital Area, and Webster Bank, as well as the State of Connecticut and the federal government. Fleet has invested about $400,000 in the IDA program in matching funds, operating support and training and was involved early on, when a Hartford-area IDA program was still just an idea.


“These programs are about personal empowerment,” says Carol Heller, a community development officer at Fleet Bank. “These are people who had no financial training, and we wanted to help. How do you get them to the point where they can move toward saving, then build their future? This is the kick-start that gets them going.”  


Just as Fleet and several other institutions have provided matching funds for the program, HIDAC is still in search of more. Federal match dollars are available if additional local funding for accounts can be secured.      


“Our primary goal is to increase the scale of the program,” says David Chabot, chair of United Way’s Emerging Needs Committee, which awarded United Way’s portion of the funding. “We want this program to grow so that many more people in the Hartford region can have their own IDAs. There’s a long waiting list.”


Angela and Sherman Johnson and their five boys will attest to the worth of those matching funds. They are true believers in IDAs, now that they are living in an 1,800-square-foot townhouse on the Tolland Turnpike, with three bedrooms, two baths and a fenced-in backyard. “It’s true I had to come up with my own money, but not nearly as much as I would have had to otherwise,” Mrs. Johnson said.


A Proud Homeowner


Danny Tryon’s housing success story is similar only in the assistance he received from dozens of people and agencies, some supported through United Way. Tryon, who has an intellectual disability and uses a wheelchair, was renting a condominium on Woodland Street in Hartford when his landlord informed him he needed to sell the unit. The landlord, Charles Miller, asked Tryon if he would like to buy the condo. Tryon, not wanting to leave his home, said yes. He had a paying job at the state Department of Revenue Services, communicated well by using sign language, and had dedicated support staff from HARC that makes sure his quality of life is high. Together, they thought he could do it.  

Mr. Tryon, in front of his condo on Woodland Street in Hartford.

Mr. Tryon, in front of his condo on Woodland Street in Hartford.


Then the troubles began. Tryon became seriously ill and was hospitalized. “They weren’t sure he was going to survive,” says Diana Appleton, the coordinator of community affairs at HARC, a United Way member agency. So much time went by that Miller, now truly pressed to sell the condo, put it back on the market. A buyer appeared, but before a deal could be sealed, Tryon needed to vacate the premises. That was impossible, since he was incapacitated in the hospital. The deal fell through, and the condo was back on the market.


While Tryon was in the hospital, a program sponsored by Co-op Initiatives called Home of Your Own, which helps secure home ownership for disabled people, accepted Tryon as a client. Soon after Tryon recovered, the landlord again offered him the condo, and the deal was back on. Although Tryon had no established credit history, in an unprecedented move, the landlord wrote a letter of recommendation to the mortgage company to support Tryon.


A closing day was set. But then a glitch occurred. Another closing day was set, then another. Four closing days came and went. But on the fifth day, March 27, with Danny Tryon’s support staff, Marsha Zipkin from a Home of Your Own, a sign-language interpreter and two lawyers present, Tryon became a proud homeowner.


Even that day didn’t go according to plan. Although the lawyers had other appointments, the final signing took three hours, partly because Tryon can only speak in sign language. “Still, they hung in there,” Appleton says. “His supported-living staff and Marsha Zipkin from a Home of Your Own played a huge part in this story,” she says. “This is really a triumph of many people not letting the ball go.”


Tryon has been living on his own for a while as a renter, but now he can call himself a homeowner. This is priceless to those long dependent on landlords and others for housing help. As Diana Appleton says, “Fifty years ago, when HARC was founded, people with intellectual disabilities were often institutionalized. Now, our clients are able to purchase their own homes and live on their own.”

Top of page


Site Map Privacy Statement Copyright Contact Us

Get Help | Give Help | About Us | Donate | Community Investment Partner Agencies | Campaign Headquarters | A-Z Index | Volunteer Solutions

Who We Are | Visions for our Community | Where does the money come from | Staff Directory | Success Stories | Successful Children | Strong Families | Thriving Communities | Board of Directors | New Britain Board of Directors | Windham Board of Directors | Board of Directors Resources | Financial Practices | Statement of Financial Positions | Financial Statements | Statements of Activities | Overhead | Form 990 | Publications | Press Releases | Annual Reports | Leadership Greater Hartford | FAQs | Employment Opportunities
© 2005 United Way of the Capital Area, 30 Laurel St., Hartford, CT 06106-1374 | (860) 493-6800
Website development by DMCteam.com