Imagine you have just arrived at your job at an area restaurant only to find that they are immediately closing the restaurant, leaving you with no income. Or perhaps as you are approaching retirement, your spouse has been diagnosed with a condition that is now rapidly worsening and requires full-time care. Or maybe you and your infant child are left to fend for yourselves after your spouse is incarcerated.

These scenarios and many others like them play out in homes around our community on a daily basis—families facing hardship with very few resources and very little reserves.

Now imagine that you can walk alongside these families, supporting them and helping them find help and answers. Imagine that you can be part of something bigger that can change lives and help lift our community up … one family at a time.

That is what many people in the tech community have experienced. They have walked in the shoes of a family that was struggling, seen how they received assistance and then learned how they can be a part of providing assistance to other families in need. The way that they accomplished all of this was by engaging with Real Life. Real Choices.—a poverty simulation conducted by United Way of Central Indiana in conjunction with Techpoint.

Over the past several months, members of our tech community were invited to become part of a new family, one of the nearly 25% of families that are working but still struggling to make ends meet. Dozens of participants simulated one of ten scenarios based on a real-life Central Indiana family’s story. The participants work through budgeting for three months for this ALICE family (stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed; in other words, a family working but still struggling to make ends meet).

Each family must deal with unforeseen circumstances which make their already difficult life much more precarious. And while this might seem sad or hopeless, participants find that there are community partners who work with United Way of Central Indiana to bring assistance to families just like these families every day. The end of the experience outlines actions that each person can take to be a part of the solution locally.

The Real Life. Real Choices. simulation changes perspectives on the community and the individual’s place in it. It’s an important experience that many people working in tech have appreciated and taken with them to continue doing good works that support what United Way of Central Indiana is doing as well.

Here are some ways to become part of the system of support for families in Central Indiana:

  1. One obvious way to help is to GIVE. There are over one hundred community-based organizations that UWCI works with, and each one of those partners needs funding to carry out the vital work they do.

    When you give, you can choose to contribute to the area of need that speaks most to you: Basic Needs (Food, Housing, Transportation and Health), Family Opportunity (Education, Financial Success, Workforce Development) or Social Innovation (creative new ideas for addressing community issues).
  2. Another way to help is to ADVOCATE. Policies established at the Statehouse affect all Hoosier families. We feel it is important to know about policies and speak up for changes that can help families in need.

    United Way is an active voice in public policy, and every Hoosier can become an essential advocate for any cause — even while sheltering in place during the pandemic. 

  3. One more way to be part of the solution is to VOLUNTEER. The community partners we work with need volunteers every single day to make the work they do a success. You can be part of that workforce!

    Visit our website today to learn more about ways you can continue to help these partners do their life-sustaining work. The opportunities include several virtual options and cover a wide range of skill sets.

We can have a part in helping families in our community meet their basic needs while being supported back toward being self-sufficiency. We can take an active role in helping to shape and change policies that are barriers for many families in our community. And we can work to help organizations that impact the lives of our neighbors in a positive way. If we each find our avenue to engage, real change can happen. You can truly help change tomorrow, today.

If you’re ready to get started now, you can register for other upcoming United Way of Central Indiana events. On January 27, we will host Understanding the Roots of Racism: Social Capital and Civic Engagement, and on February 27, you are invited to attend our annual ELEVATE event.

This year, ELEVATE presented by GEICO puts a virtual stamp in your passport for a whirlwind tour to three continents in just 90 minutes – in the comfort of your own home (and in your pajamas, if you like). Join us on this journey as we catch a glimpse of the sights, sounds and cultures of Campinas, Brazil, Monza, Italy, and Taipei, Taiwan – three of Indy’s sister cities – while we toast our community’s young professionals who exemplify leadership, embody philanthropy, and demonstrate ingenuity to help

Proceeds from ELEVATE benefit United Way’s basic needs fund – providing critical supplies and support for people in crisis situations.

Contact Margie Worrell ( for more information.