This is Health: Sharonda's Story

Palm Health Foundation is working to build a culture of health in Palm Beach County in which all residents have opportunities to thrive and reach their full health potential. One of the ways we are doing this is through the Open Table Poverty Initiative.

A person needs access to healthy foods, reliable transportation, safe places to exercise and much more to maintain good health over their lifetime. Therefore, a person experiencing poverty is often unable to reach their full health potential – at least, not without a little help.

The Open Table initiative is providing help to families experiencing poverty through networks of individuals, or “tables,” that meet on a weekly basis to identify areas in which a family needs assistance, and then lend personal expertise or connections to assist. Table members help families achieve their life goals.

This summer, a table in the Glades community surrounded a single mother of four children with support that ended up dramatically changing her circumstances:

One evening, while driving home from work, Sharonda got a flat tire. It was dark, she was alone, she had no phone and was in the middle of nowhere. She had no choice but to drive her car, on that flat tire, all the way home. The extensive car damage from that drive rendered her vehicle unusable and became the first domino to fall in a series of setbacks that left Sharonda and her family without income, electricity, food or stability. The final domino fell when Sharonda received an eviction notice.

Before losing her home, Sharonda was embraced by the Open Table initiative, where table members, or “brothers” and “sisters” listened to her troubles and offered assistance – not through monetary donations, but by tapping into their personal networks and knowledge base to provide the help she needed.

One brother, Director of Grants & Evaluation at Palm Health Foundation Andy McAusland, put in a personal call to the CEO of a nonprofit that provides trade instruction to teens called Project LIFT. This organization offers an auto-mechanic program complete with a full-service auto workshop. Project LIFT picked up Sharonda's car and fixed it within two weeks, free-of-charge.

“I love the Open Table model, because it’s about neighbors helping neighbors,” says McAusland. “Neighbors who don’t know each other at first bond with each other and form deep relationships that improve the larger community. We’ve created relationships that will last for life.”

A sister connected Sharonda with rent assistance and advocated against her unlawfully speedy eviction. Another sister worked with a local assistance program to get the electricity turned back on. A third sister tapped into her personal network and secured a new job for the single mom – this job is within walking distance to her home.

The brothers and sisters around Sharonda's table utilized their social capital to help her out of a crisis situation, but their presence in her life doesn’t end there. Now that her immediate needs are met, she can focus on her “life plan.” First up on the life plan list: learning to budget. She has many brothers and sisters who can help with that, and whatever comes next.


Click here to be part of the work that Palm Health Foundation is doing to build a culture of health in our community.