Dorcas Hallie Q. Brown

Dorcas was born and raised in Nigeria, where she lived with her three young children until she sought asylum and a better life in the United States in 2017. Through a church program, Dorcas and her family immigrated to Minnesota.

“We didn’t know anybody when we first moved here. My kids and I were nervous—we didn’t know if anyone would like or accept us,” she said.

The church housed Dorcas and her family and helped them find an apartment. Because the church was in the Summit-University area of Saint Paul, she heard about Hallie Q. Brown, a community center that serves the neighborhood. Hallie Q. Brown is a Greater Twin Cities United Way partner that helps families in crisis by providing access to nutritious, culturally-specific food.

Dorcas began visiting the food shelf at Hallie Q. Brown a few times a week, where she was pleasantly surprised to find items that were familiar to her from home.

“The first day I was at the food shelf I didn’t know they would have things from my culture; from Africa,” she said. “They had plantains, turmeric, chili peppers—I was like, wow! Where I am from, you always have fresh vegetables and fruits, and I can get those things here.”

In addition to finding the food she was seeking to feed her family, Dorcas found a sense of community at Hallie Q. Brown.

“Not only did Hallie help us with food, they also helped us become connected to our new neighborhood,” she said. “I feel comfortable here and everyone treats me with respect.”

After making regular visits, Dorcas also started volunteering at the food shelf. She felt so connected to Hallie Q. Brown that once she got her work permit, Dorcas got a job as a preschool teacher in Hallie’s childcare center, where she works today.

United Way made a direct impact on Dorcas’ life through Hallie Q. Brown, which offered her community, access to healthy, culturally-relevant food, and employment.

“We can have challenges in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to back down,” she said. “The help I received has been a blessing to me.”