“Never Stop Looking for Answers” April Sage, Key Bank
A Conversation with the Vision Sponsor of GTCF’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Workshops
Never stop looking for answers. Never. No matter how you feel. No matter how unsafe or destitute, no matter if you think you’ve turned over every rock, never stop looking for answers because if your gut tells you you need changes made in your life, do it for all the right reasons.
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation sponsored two workshops this summer for the Fund for Women and Girls’ Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative. Leaders from nonprofits, businesses, academic institutions, government, and civic organizations gathered in July and August to learn more about the economic status of female heads of household in Pierce County who were living on the brink of financial security.
At each workshop, participants heard real-life stories, research from a variety of sources, and expert speakers before engaging in knowledge-exchange, conversation, and brainstorming. The input and ideas offered at the workshops will inform the development of upcoming action items for the Fund for Women and Girls’ Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative.
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation will be sharing information and next steps for the Initiative later this year. As the workshops came to a close, the Vision Sponsor for the events, Key Bank’s April Sage, sat down with Megan Sukys, VP Communications for GTCF, to share her thoughts and personal reflections on her participation with the Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative.
Megan: What made you want to sponsor this event?
April: Key Bank celebrates our nonprofit relationships that focus and support education, transitional support, and many diverse groups of individuals. We have an initiative “Key4Women” where women learn, network, and give in local markets throughout our footprint.
Key encourages employees to give throughout the year with their time, talent and treasure. We have an award-winning program recognized for being community minded nationally. This program encourages thinking about how we can use our resources wisely to help make a difference locally. That gives people like myself an opportunity to advocate for programs like this.
I was on the Advisory Board of Greater Tacoma Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls, so this work has always been there for me. I feel strongly about it. Much of what I have done in my life mirrors what we’re trying to do here. There are pieces and parts that resonate very deeply with me.
Being a part of the Fund for Women and Girls and knowing down deep how important this mission is, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
Megan: When you came to the Women’s Economic Opportunity workshops in July and August, what were you expecting?
April: I was hopeful and excited. I am thankful and honored to be a part of a community–oriented vision that lends itself to pulling up and charging forward with other women who have the same strong desire. And men, for that matter.
I was in a meeting last week, we were talking about women’s executive leadership. I made the comment that, although we are talking about how important it is to lock arms as women, I would say that 90 percent of my mentors were men. People who pulled me up were men. I won’t discount their level of engagement and activity.
But, at the workshops, the level of stories was incredible. Those moving stories not only reaffirmed we all have stories, but it also made me wish that other women with stories heard this. Often, that’s all it takes as a catalyst.
…at the workshops, the level of stories was incredible. Those moving stories not only reaffirmed we all have stories, but it also made me wish that other women with stories heard this. Often, that’s all it takes as a catalyst.
Megan: Is there anything from your personal experience that lets you know how important it is for a woman to be able to advance economically?
April: Yes. There’s so much. One lesson for me was that if you need help, don’t be embarrassed to ask for it. Sometimes that help may meet a small need that could help you move the mountain, and give you access. Uncovering the resources to find out where those programs are is probably the biggest challenge.
I shared my story at a past Fund for Women and Girls’ luncheon. It was not only a challenge because I’m terrified of public speaking, but it was a chapter taken from my life that feels like a hundred years ago – or that I took the story from another woman.
Roughly fifteen years ago, I packed up everything I had and put it in my Volkswagen to drive home to Washington where I was going to restart my life. But just prior to that, I was the breadwinner of the family with two young children. I made money, but I don’t know where it went. In my situation I trusted who I was with and thought the money was going to the right things.
Our power was being turned off, and I didn’t know where to turn at all. I found out that they have grants, that they wouldn’t turn off the power of a woman with small children. And so, I asked for a grant and a Christian organization that does things like this, whether you go to their church or not, paid roughly $350 to keep my power on.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re doing everything you can to provide for your family, but it’s not enough.
There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re doing everything you can to provide for your family, but it’s not enough. The stress of trying to keep a roof over my children’s head and the power on, both of those things, I knew I had to figure something out. It gave me the focus to figure out how to get going. To get us out and go. That was the best gift anyone could have ever given me because it gave me strength.
And then I got here and found I barely qualified for food stamps. I had too nice of a car. We had no possessions, but my car was too nice. And I was upside-down on my car so it wasn’t like I could get rid of the car. So, when I came to apply for something just to get us any food – we had no food – I didn’t qualify. I finally ended up qualifying and I got one month’s worth of food.
Those were big steps, maybe three or four months apart. Big steps for us to restart our life and make it a good one.
Anyway, I had prayed and prayed that when I got back on my feet I would give back.
Megan: What lesson did you take away from that time that you carry with you even now?
April: Never stop looking for answers. Never. No matter how you feel. No matter how unsafe or destitute, no matter if you think you’ve turned over every rock, never stop looking for answers because if your gut tells you you need changes made in your life, do it for all the right reasons.
And then, two, resources are out there and they’re not easy to find. When I say don’t stop looking for the answers, that means you have to talk. You have to tell your story. You have to ask for help because sometimes you might ask someone that can’t help you, but they might know someone who can. But you have to be brave enough to say it.
Don’t be embarrassed, because things happen. People understand that.
It was embarrassing. I won’t lie. You don’t want to ask for help, especially if you’re a hard worker. You might think it reflects poorly on you. It doesn’t reflect poorly on you. Things happen.
Tell your story and don’t stop asking.
You don’t want to ask for help, especially if you’re a hard worker. You might think it reflects poorly on you. It doesn’t reflect poorly on you. Things happen.
Tell your story and don’t stop asking.
Megan: What would you say to someone who wants to extend help for women who find themselves in that kind of situation?
April: It’s not necessarily monetary help that moves the needle in people’s lives. Sometimes it’s connection, like an internship or finding out how to get financial aid from a school or a mentor. Someone who has been there and done that and can understand scars and scrapes and bruises, and can continue to support. Mentors are unbelievable resources of strength when you feel like you don’t have any.
Megan: What do you think is possible if people come together in collaboration to address Women’s Economic Opportunity in Pierce County?
April: There are hundreds of groups in Pierce County that are focused on very similar missions. There are many of us with wonderful intentions that are out there trying to make a difference. And I honestly think that if everyone could come together and put all these wonderful resources together, and be able to lock arms and move forward – rather than as separate groups – we could make a big difference.
It shouldn’t have to take calling twenty people to uncover a resource to find stability in your life. There should be a resource where people can connect with all the groups.
I’m thinking in terms of Key Bank. If you call a 1-800 number, you can choose from any one of these simplified numbers and you will be routed to a place where they would help. In my head, it’s that simple.
To me, if I were where I was back then, and I knew there was a 1-800 number that I could call and they would know exactly where to send me for a solution to my problem*, how grateful I would have been. I walk past people all the time who I know need help. If they could get help by that simple procedure, that would be a real benefit.
…if everyone could come together and put all these wonderful resources together, and be able to lock arms and move forward – rather than as separate groups – we could make a big difference.
*END NOTE: In the South Sound area, United Way’s 2-1-1 service can provide references and information for a range of urgent needs including: Rent and Utility Assistance, Counseling and Mental Health Services, Food and Clothing Resources, Shelter and Affordable Housing, Employment and Education Services, Military/Veteran Resources, and Transportation.