Community stories: Tim Barbour, United Way Community Care Advocate

Published on October 4, 2022

Tim Barbour tiger game
Tim Barbour
Tim Barbour with neice and nephew
Tim Barbour and father in law

Like a lot of people, the COVID-19 pandemic changed me. Extended lockdowns redirected my goals, my priorities, and even my career.

After high school, I thought I wanted to be a chef. I went to work at a Detroit staple – The Traffic Jam & Snug and stayed there for 5 years. I met my wife, Robin, and made lifelong friends there. We moved a lot, and I worked in logistics and customer service before going back to work in a restaurant. I was there when the pandemic began and for the first time in my life, I needed to collect unemployment. I began to see how difficult it was to navigate some of the systems that are supposed to help people.

I first had that feeling when I moved to Detroit and noticed the lack of grocery stores. I grew up in White Lake and had never experienced a food desert – I didn’t even know they existed. I started researching and learned how far these systemic inequities went and felt called to do something about it. The desire to help made me re-think my career path and led me to United Way as a community care advocate on the 2-1-1 team.

Advocating for the community is enlightening and emotional work. You don’t think about utility assistance being emotional until you can hear the quiet crying on the other end of the line. You realize that utilities are a lifeline, and these assistance programs are lifesaving in some cases whether it’s being able to keep insulin refrigerated or simply relieving one source of stress for someone who is struggling. I know that at any moment, it could be someone I love on the other end of a 2-1-1 call and so I do what I can to make sure every caller feels heard and seen.

Tim Barbour is the Community Care Advocate at United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

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