The Difference A Year Makes: United Way Forging a Path For ALICE Families

Kimberly Murphy. Photo by: Tim UnderhillKimberly Murphy. Photo by: Tim Underhill

By: Juli Metzger—

Muncie, Indiana—A year ago, Kimberly Murphy was working part-time with AmeriCorp and taking accounting classes at Ivy Tech. The mother of two adult children and a middle-schooler wanted a better life.

Today, Murphy works part-time at Huffer Memorial Children’s Center and is a full-time student at Ball State University working toward her bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in financial planning, and is this much closer to the life she wants, one with higher earning potential and a role model for her youngest daughter Krystal.

It all started with services from United Way funded programs including Second Harvest, Motivate Our Minds and the Boys & Girls Club of Muncie. With a little help, life for Kimberly and Krystal is manageable today and getting better all the time but still not easy, never easy.

“I knew what I had to do if I was ever going to make a wage I need, something more than $8 an hour,” Kimberly says. “But I couldn’t have done it without United Way. Things are looking up.”

This year, Kimberly is a United Way advocate, telling her story in small and big settings, urging donors to give what they can and standing proud that she is a benefactor of United Way and today, can give back, too.

A year ago, Kimberly was making $15,000 a year and doing taxes on the side. Today, she works part time at Huffer Memorial Children’s Center, a United Way-supported nonprofit, as part of a statewide retraining program. She works three days a week and takes 15 credit hours toward her bachelor’s degree. She’s on track to graduate in May of 2020.

“I could be done with my social work degree in May of 2019, but I’ll need another year because of my financial planning minor,” says Kimberly. “I want to be able to help my social work clients with all aspects of money. It’s part of the skills they’ll need to succeed. I will need that knowledge to help my clients.”

Kimberly’s is an ALICE family, asset limited, income constrained, employed. It means while she is gainfully employed, there’s little room in the budget for emergencies.

In Delaware County, nearly half live in poverty or are ALICE; within the city, it’s six in 10 families whose low income fits the federal guidelines for poor. A recently released report shows more children in Delaware County live in poverty than any other county in the state. Statistically, 80 percent of children living in low income households are not reading at grade level.

United Way supports 28 programs run by 26 non-profits throughout the county that have a tie to the central goal of ending generational poverty.

It’s that generational problem that United Way has taken careful aim at through its support of early childhood education, specifically programs that increase third-grade level reading attainment, a key benchmark for success later in life.

Kimberly is working to break the poverty cycle in her own family.

She learned financial literacy through Second Harvest and is a 2015 Circle Leader graduate now helping others. The 16-week course taught her steps to get out of poverty and provides mentoring throughout the year to keep her on track.

Kimberly explains she “had babies early” and she’s “catching up now. I raised two older kids myself.” She says her financial stresses are “situational,” and she’s working with United Way funding partners every month to set goals. “They hold me accountable,” Kimberly said. “They are my support system.”

In the last year, Kimberly and Krystal moved across town from an apartment to a small house and into a better neighborhood. Krystal is in her third year of violin lessons at Motivate Our Minds, and picked up the cello this year. She is this year’s recipient of the Wenger scholarship, which pays her tuition there. She gets homework help and plays basketball at the Boys & Girls Club of Muncie on other nights.

“Our perspective has changed,” Kimberly says. “Everything is looking up.”


About United Way of Delaware County

United Way of Delaware County, Indiana engages the community to improve lives by focusing resources on education, health, and financial stability. The non-profit fights to create lasting change in community conditions. As the sponsoring organization for the community’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, United Way works to help children read at or above grade level by the end of their third-grade year. It is during this critical time that children transition from learning how to read, into being students who read to learn in order to be successful in school and life. United Way strategically invests in local programs that provide services that contribute to children’s success with reading and ultimately aim to end generational poverty in Delaware County. Learn more at