One of the greatest joys we receive at United Way is when we get an unexpected phone call from someone we helped years ago, sharing with us how much their lives have changed because of the support they received.
This is one of those stories. This is Tony’s story.
In 2011, Tony Sovern was working in a factory as a machine operator when he along with many co-workers were laid off. Each hoped the “return to work” call would come, but it never did. In the two years following his lay off, amidst a struggling economy, Tony was only able to land part-time jobs that paid minimum wage. Things were tight and getting tighter as Tony and his wife welcomed their first child to the family. He knew he needed a new stable career that paid more so that he could support and make the future better for his growing family.
While filing for unemployment, Tony noticed a sign for a 12-week welding course at Hinds Career Center in Elwood. He decided to go for it and within 5 days he was enrolled. The program turned out to be a great fit for Tony and his goals. “I’ve always been good with my hands. I like seeing the pieces of things come together.” Tony continues, “The program has completely changed my life.”
Even before he completed the course, Tony was offered and accepted a full-time welding position at Progress Rail. A job that put his family on the path to a financially stable life. He worked at Progress Rail for 5 years, adding to his skills and welding knowledge continually.
2018 was another life-changing year for Tony and his family. He and his wife welcomed their second child and Tony was offered the position of welding instructor at the D26 Career Center for Anderson Community Schools. The position provided better working hours for Tony and gave him the opportunity to come full circle in his journey – teaching young students the skill of welding so that they could have a great career with a stable future of their own.
Tony’s Story is a great example of United Way working with partners throughout the community to provide opportunities for individuals to increase their income, build savings and gain assets. This happens through programs funded by United Way, like JobSource’s Financial Stability program in 2013 that provided funding for Tony to take the welding course. And now through United Way’s THRIVE Network that helps others like Tony to find the help and resources they need to become financially stable.
“If you take advantage of the opportunities, the possibilities are limitless,” shared Tony. These words are part of his story that he shares with his students. He wants them to know the importance of taking advantage of the same opportunities he had and that they keep working hard to reach their goals.