In 2005, three single mothers were faced with very difficult choices: buy food for their children, or spend the money on rent so that they could stay in their homes, buy medicine for their chronically ill son and daughter or pay the past-due utility bill, pay hundreds of dollars to fix the family car — one that also was used for the family business — or spend the money on requisite monthly expenses. For all of these women, paying one bill meant falling short in another critical area. These stories are not unique. Countless families face these difficult choices every day, and frequently they have no place to turn for the help they need to avoid financial catastrophe. Nevertheless, in 2005, a small group of women decided that they could help the three single mothers by gathering financial support for neighbors and friends. From those efforts, a charity was born.

Radiant Hands Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charity established to provide financial support to families in crisis, with specific focus on single-parent households in the North Central Florida area. Since 2005, we have distributed more than $116,000 to more than 335 families to help them stay in their homes, keep the utilities on, pay for medicine and buy household supplies. We have also worked with a number of other local organizations to provide food, toiletry items and warm clothing to the homeless population.

In 2011, we established Radiant Works, a scholarship program to help motivated individuals earn their GED degree or further their education in other ways. Twenty-five of these scholarships have been awarded, helping move families toward greater financial independence and stability.

Radiant Hands’ story is not only about money, but also personal support tailored to the specific necessities of families in need. We strive to identify alternative ways to support families by minimizing cash flow and maximizing impact. For example, with the help of a local shoe store, we provided a single mother with work-appropriate shoes so that she could start a nursing career. With the assistance of a local automotive shop, we helped a family with car repairs so that the family business could continue to operate. A local physician helped us provide a special baby monitor for a deaf mother.

While some families need help with a single bill or issue, for others, Radiant Hands is a regular source of motivation and care, sometimes extending over two to three years. One example is a mother who contacted us three years ago for help. She was pregnant, out of work and had been abandoned by her husband. With periodic support from Radiant Hands and her own fierce determination, she was able to acquire employment and quickly move past her financial difficulties to the point where she now is able to make regular financial contributions to Radiant Hands — in turn, helping others overcome their challenges.

Those individuals or businesses interested in participating with our efforts may contact admin@radianthands.org to be added to our e-mail and volunteer list. You may also visit our website www.RadiantHands.org to learn more, read testimonials from families whom we have supported or make a financial contribution. In addition to being granted the GuideStar Seal, which is conferred upon charities with outstanding financial management and reporting, since 2009, the United Way and the University of Florida have welcomed Radiant Hands Inc. into the Community Campaign. This program allows UF employees to donate to a charity of their choice through payroll deduction.

With the support of local businesses and families, we look forward to continuing to help our neighbors in need.