What does Families Forward Charlotte do?
We work with families in need to help them break out of the cycle of poverty so that they can achieve stability and success. These are a few examples of how we help:
Family Success Program:
- Personalized Support – We provide each family in our Family Success Program with a Family Liaison (a volunteer mentor) who works with families, one-on-one, during the year to help them get closer to life-long stability. After an in-depth interview of each family, we help the family set goals and then connect them to existing community resources while providing specific assistance in navigating or applying for those resources. We will connect families with educational opportunities, and provide social capital to families to make life-long connections to encourage success.
- Essential Support – Each family we serve will be interviewed to determine their individual needs. All families will receive a customized “essentials baskets” throughout the year filled with toiletries and other items that will help ease the burden of poverty. We will also work to fulfill other needs the family may have, including things like replacing a broken stove so a family is capable of preparing meals, providing bus passes so parents can get to work and support their loved ones, or replacing broken beds so families have a comfortable place to sleep.
- Community Resources – We have compiled a comprehensive list of Mecklenburg County supportive resources which can be found on our website.
Weekend Food Packs:
We will coordinate, raise funds, collect donations, and provide volunteers to prepare food bags for food-insecure families in Charlotte. Each bag will provide a family with food over weekends and holidays when children don’t have access to free breakfast and lunch at their school. These are distributed by our partner schools.
Supporting families in these small, yet significant ways, can greatly increase their ability to support themselves and eventually achieve life-long stability.
Why do we need Families Forward Charlotte?
Imagine waking up not knowing where your next meal will come from as your children tell you they’re hungry. Work starts in one hour but your tank is on empty and you don’t have the money to fill it up. If you miss work, you’ll get fired but who will watch the kids if you go? Unfortunately, this is a daily reality for far too many of our fellow Charlotteans (http://www.charlottemagazine.com/Charlotte-Magazine/February-2016/The-Conversation-Issue-50-Our-Lowest-Low/).
Families Forward Charlotte is committed to fighting the poverty trend facing our community. Our Liaisons have connected families with job opportunities, housing, training programs, much needed mental health treatment, and have connected them to assistance for their children. They are someone in their corner – someone that cares about them. We have called organizations on behalf of a family to try to keep them in their home, and made many calls try to find them a transitional home to live in when they are losing theirs. We sat with families to help them fill out countless housing applications. We care if they succeed or fail, and we know we can make it easier for them to succeed with someone on their side and showing them the way.
How are you different from other organizations?
What sets us apart are the family relationships we form that allow us to walk alongside a family on their journey to stability. Our Family Liaison’s (volunteer) spend 4-6 hours a month in a mentorship capacity with our families. The Family Liaison uses their training to support their partner family as they set goals, plan action steps, connect with existing resources in the community, and they also use their social capital (their resources/connections and time) to help a family achieve their goals.
We also provide families with certain essentials that can make a significant difference in their lives or help them break through a barrier to their success – by providing essentials in the home and easier access to resources they need, we are allowing the family the ability to focus their attention on their goals. Additionally, we connect them with existing organizations in the community, and help in navigating those resources, which provide the tools and assistance needed to break the cycle of poverty.
How can I get involved?
We need volunteers for a host of various tasks including, but not limited to, packaging of our essentials baskets and weekend food packs, being a Family Liaison, hosting donation drives, fundraising, and communications. Click HERE to be redirected to our volunteer information.
Interested in joining our Board of Directors (BOD)? As a largely volunteer organization our BOD gives of their time each week in order to run the organization. If you would like more information please contact Info@FamiliesForwardCLT.org.
Does your company want to become one of our Community Partners? Email Caroline Cox at Caroline@FamiliesForwardCLT.org for sponsorship information.
Host a donation drive! Contact us at Info@FamiliesForwardClt.org for more information.
Can’t host a donation drive but want to donate? Contact us at Info@FamiliesForwardClt.org for more information.
How many families do you serve?
In 2019-20 we served 30 families in our Family Success Program. In 2020-21 we are increasing the number of families served to 50 families, and plan to serve 70 families in 2021-22. View our Strategic Plan: 2019-22 Strategic Plan – CURRENT.
Our Weekend Food Pack program provides 200 weekend food packs each month during the school year, and additional assistance to these families in the form of grocery gift cards during the holidays.
How do you find the people you help? Are they screened?
Initially, we will find our family partners through the social workers and guidance counselors at partner Charlotte-Mecklenburg Title 1 schools. These dedicated professionals already have a relationship with families in need and can provide strong recommendations for the families we serve. We are currently working with 6 partner schools to accept referrals but will be expanding our referral sources for the 2021-22 program year.
Where does my money go?
We are a small organization that focuses on using funds to have a direct impact on the families we serve. We use funds to host our website (which provides our comprehensive resource list to our entire community), to provide essential needs to families throughout the year, and to host monthly educational workshops in which we provide transportation, childcare, translation services, and a meal for all program families. Your generosity also allows us to be members of the Economic Mobility Exchange, provide Mobility Mentoring© training to our staff/board and volunteers, and also the tools and time needed to manage our dedicated volunteers and family partners.
We are a certified 501(c)3 organization listed on GuideStar.org where you can find our most recent financial information.
If you find that your questions are not answered here please contact Carrie Christian at Carrie@FamiliesForwardCLT.org or 704-659-1833.
Why was FFC founded?
Written by our Founder, Carrie Christian in 2017:
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 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 supporting them on their journey to life-long stability.
Dena Graziano and Angelica Rosen joined me to help found FFC and ensured we had a strong plan and mission from the start. Since this idea was born it has taken off – we quickly had a strong Board of Directors in place and got to work. Our initial idea of mentoring a couple of families quickly grew to training volunteers to do so. As we saw success with this model early on, we grew to serve more families while learning from our successes and challenges, as well as growing our community partners. We have made it our mission to walk alongside families – without judgement, and without making them jump through hoops to get the support they need.
We want to thank everyone that has supported Families Forward Charlotte. We are especially grateful for the family partners who put their trust in us, and to the volunteer Family Liaisons (mentors) – without them this work wouldn’t be possible.