“I have no doubt that we’re happy and healthier today because of the support we got when we needed it.”

For Kelli Lang,’s 2016 Sponsored Employee, the opportunity to give back to her community is an important part of her life. Having experienced first-hand how valuable United Way is, it’s even more meaningful for Kelli that she can devote her full-time hours between August and December to working with United Way London & Middlesex.

When Kelli was only 30 years old, she faced major health and family crises that turned her life upside down. Forced to stop working and no longer in a relationship with her children’s father, Kelli and her two daughters endured losing their home and car, and the girls had to withdraw from their afterschool activities due to cost. “I felt immortal when I was 24, 25,” reflects Kelli, “I came from a good home, had a good education. I was in no way prepared to deal with the hand we’d been dealt as a family.”

“When I look back on those years and remember what it felt like when there was a knock on the door … you just wanted to hide. There was never a good phone call or home visit at that point.”

With extreme stress and fears of unpaid bills mounting, Kelli turned to United Way where the family gained access to counselling, afterschool care and breakfast programs that made a world of difference for Kelli and her two daughters. The relief Kelli felt was deep, knowing there was support available to emotionally manage these difficult times. “I have no doubt that we’re happy and healthier today because of the support we got when we needed it.” Kelli says it took several years to regain financial stability but it was because of the assistance she found through United Way that she and her daughters could get through that difficult time with their well-being intact.

Now working at one of London’s largest tech companies, Kelli jumped at the chance to apply to StarTech’s United Way Sponsored Employee program. With a panel interview and presentation as part of the application process, this was a chance for Kelli to illustrate what it’s like to live in poverty for those who haven’t had to experience the struggle. Taking an empty glass and full pitcher of water into the boardroom at StarTech headquarters, Kelli asked one of the interview panelists to volunteer for a demonstration. “I asked her to hold the empty glass and then filled it right up with the water. She then had to try and hold the full glass – in one hand – for my 20-minute presentation.” The exercise was meant to give a glimpse into the exhaustion and sheer will it takes to keep going when living in poverty. As Kelli describes it, that feeling of fatigue in your arm and all of the concentration spent focusing on simply keeping that limb raised is a taste of what she lived through with her daughters. “It becomes almost unbearable, and your arm is all you can focus on eventually because the physical exhaustion is overwhelming, so you have you put the glass down or you’ll drop it. Well, you can’t do that with poverty. You don’t have the choice to just walk away from it. It takes years of recovery to come up from the bottom of that hole.”

Today Kelli and her two girls are thriving and so grateful for the generosity their community extended during their time of need. Helping others in similar life circumstances is a priority for Kelli, and with everyone’s busy schedules, it’s important that the time and money donated is well spent. That’s why Kelli encourages people to give to United Way: she says it’s easy to do and that the organization’s reputation for being ethically run reassures her of her wise investment. Laughing, Kelli also explains, “The last thing you want when you try to do something good is for it to be hard to do! With United Way, it’s simple.”

Katrina FortnerKelli