Finding Purpose: A Story of Addiction and Support
Change Maker Sponsor - United Way of Greater Toledo

Finding Purpose: A Story of Addiction and Support

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.


“Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was born into privilege,” said Mary*, as she recalled her story to the young mother sitting across from her.

“I had a happy childhood, finished high school, started a job that I loved, married a wonderful man and brought two beautiful babies into this world. But addiction is a terrible disease…” she said, taking a brief pause from her memories to glance out the window—as if turning her eyes away from a haunting picture of the past.

Addition doesn’t care about privilege.
Addiction took everything from me.

Drinking and drug use had cost Mary her job, her marriage, custody of her children and her home. Friends tried to help, but Mary couldn’t stay clean and sober. At the time it seemed her only purpose in life was to find her next temporary high. Eventually, she began living on the streets.

Savannah*, the 20-year-old mother of two who was intensely listening to Mary’s story, was no stranger to addiction and homelessness herself. It was only weeks ago she had been booted from the home of her abusive boyfriend. With no family or friends in the area, she took to sleeping in her car parked in the Old West End neighborhood of Toledo before finding Aurora Project.

“About a year into my homelessness,” continued Mary, “I was working hard to get sober, but I knew it wouldn’t stick unless I could get off the streets and that’s when I found Aurora Project.”

Looking into Savannah’s eyes was like looking into a mirror of her past. Savannah took in every word she said about the dark time in her life, which was now far, far behind Mary. She remembered being right where Savannah was—how desperately she wanted to be reassured that the steps she’d begun taking to get clean would lead her down a better path.

Aurora Project was a light in the darkness - a beacon of possibility.

Back then, when Mary was in Savannah’s shoes, she immediately immersed herself in the Aurora Project program and quickly began to thrive. It was as though all of the sudden she had found a new purpose in life. Eventually, Mary started taking other women in the program under her wing, doing her best to guide them in the areas of social graces, personal hygiene and dress—supporting them through their challenges. Mary found she enjoyed being a mentor to others.

Two years later, Mary is still a resident of Aurora Project’s permanent supportive housing and a shining example of the program’s success. Despite being busy with her new job, she’s very involved with the organization, providing tours of the house, tending to the garden, and of course, serving as a mentor.

Abruptly, her recollections were interrupted as Savannah spoke to her with fear, sadness and a sudden disbelief in her eyes. “Why do you do it? Why are you wasting your time with me.”

“Wasting my time?” Mary replied in a kind but firm tone.

“I want to give back to others the way Aurora Project gave to me. This program was exactly what I needed to get back on my feet, and it’s exactly what you need to lift yourself up to where you belong. I know, through Aurora Project, you can do better Savannah.”

If I can do it, you can do it. Mary silently thought as she looked at Savannah’s face, filled with worry. She knew Savannah could do this, because beyond the worry, she also saw a small and growing spark of desire—to beat addiction and find her own purpose.


CHANGE MAKER ACTION: Our funding for the Aurora Project is just one component of United Way’s work to provide opportunities for those struggling with addiction and homelessness. By donating below, you support these important programs that lift up lives to find purpose.

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*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by Aurora Project. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.


This post was researched and written by the MadAveCollective, which provides paying projects and expert mentoring to aspiring creatives to give nonprofit organizations access to much-needed creative services at a drastically reduced rate. MadAveCollective partners with United Way of Greater Toledo to provide our funded partners with ongoing education and professional services to help serve their missions.

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