Around two years ago I was driving home – it was dark and I was listening to NPR, something I rarely did back then. The broadcast was about the Harvard/UC-Berkeley Study “Where is the Land of Opportunity?” I listened while they talked about how Charlotte is the least upwardly mobile major city in the ENTIRE COUNTRY! My city – the city I loved growing up in – the city I want to raise my kids in… this city hasn’t served its poverty community well. We have the necessary resources, but for many reasons, if you are born into poverty in Charlotte you have very little chance of improving your socio-economic status. In other words, the American dream of being able to “pull oneself up by the bootstraps” through hard work and perseverance, is virtually impossible here. Sitting there in my car, listening to the depressing statistics about the city I love, I couldn’t help but to get emotional. I cried for my city. I cried for the children and families that aren’t given a fair chance. I decided I wanted to do something about it – but what?? So, I volunteered. For a period of time that made me feel a better, but that was short lived. I quickly realized I wanted to do more.
Fast forward a year or so to Christmas 2016. My husband, Tom, and I were buying for a family one of my friends had connected us with through the school she taught at.. My friend provided us with the clothing sizes, gift ideas and specific needs of a particular family and we would go shopping… spending $500-800 on the family. Last Christmas (2016) we were asked to buy for the family of a boy named Alex who had recently battled cancer. His cancer had gone into remission but, in its wake, had left him and his mother with piles of bills. His mother, a single mom who worked difficult hours found herself unable to meet the needs of her family of four. We were able to provide her with certain essentials to help ease her difficult plight. One of the items we provided her with was a refurbished computer. For years her three children had spent hours each week to trekking to and from the nearest library. With our gift of an old computer, they were now able to complete their schoolwork from home, and in the process were able to spend more time with each other as a family.
After dropping off the donations for this family and talking to Alex’s teachers, I drove away – again in tears. Although I knew we were helping people by buying for a family, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something more we could be doing. There are so many amazing organizations in Charlotte that can help these families – why are families still struggling?? I started doing research into starting a nonprofit and the needs of our community, talking to everyone I could find about what Charlotte has and what it needs. I found there isn’t a comprehensive list of resources for the community that is readily available to those in need (thanks for the heads-up Marilyn Marks)! I also found that one major barrier to those living in poverty is not knowing where or how to get assistance, or not being able to get to the organizations to get assistance. I decided I wanted to start an organization that meets people where they are at – that helps families find assistance, fills in the gaps where needed, and makes the lives of our neighbors a little better while helping them gain life-long stability.
Since this idea was born it has taken off – we quickly had a strong Board of Directors in place and got to work. We are so excited to get to work in our community and expect to be in full-swing serving our neighbors this Fall.
If you are interested in learning more about our organization and how you can get involved please visit our website at www.FamiliesForwardCharlotte.org and follow us on social media at https://www.facebook.com/familiesforwardcharlotte/ or https://www.instagram.com/families_forward_charlotte/.