Yesterday I got a unique opportunity to hop on a bus and spend the afternoon visiting three Charlotte nonprofit organizations. The tour was curated by United Way of Central Carolinas as a way to introduce donors to a few of the partner organizations that benefit from their funds. This particular tour was part of United Way’s effort to revive its African-American affinity group which went dormant six years ago and, according to UWCC, response has been exceptional.
To be clear, I am not a United Way donor and to be honest I didn’t really understand exactly what it is that they do until today. It might still be a bit blurry but basically UWCC is an umbrella organization of 55,000 donors and 2,000 employers whose funds help power 80+ nonprofits in five counties throughout the Carolinas.
Still with me? Good. Here are three UWCC partner organizations we visited…
If you thought Goodwill was just a bunch of thrift stores, then we’re on the same wavelength and we’re both wrong. In addition to running its flagship retail stores (I count 12 within a 20-mile radius of Uptown), Goodwill also offers career development services, job training and staffing for disadvantaged job seekers (ie those with a criminal background).
In fact, Goodwill’s job services are so crucial and successful they’re building out an impressive new 160,000-square-foot facility on an 18-acre campus near the airport. The new Goodwill Opportunity Campus will include a job resource center, private interview rooms, testing and assessment accommodations, a mock retail training store, youth center, child care facility, full-service kitchen, café, community conference center, as well as a greater number of classrooms and computer labs.
There’s a ton to explore at Goodwill alone so I’ll save it for its own feature.
Highlight: Touring the book center, which generates $1 million (ONE MILLION DOLLARS) each year for Goodwill by selling discarded books on Amazon, Ebay and Half.com. Shop their Amazon storefront at CDCBooks, Ebay at goodwillsp and Half.com at goodwillsp. On Monday they had more than 500 orders to ship. It’s incredible.
Although we parked across the street and didn’t get to go inside here, our stop out front was equally as impactful. The Relatives is a safe house for children and youth who need temporary shelter and support. This could be kids who have run away from home, are living in an abusive household or just need help. The Crisis Center is a 24-hour facility that will house kids 7-17 for up to two weeks, the On Ramp Resource Center provides counseling and workshops for youth 16-24 who are transitioning to adulthood, and the Journey Place is a transitional residence for young men 18-21 who have aged out of foster care but need (and deserve) some guidance.
Highlight: One of the donors on the bus shared that she was in fact a resident of The Relatives when she ran away from home in 1978, completing multiple two-week stays at the house. “I am where I am today because of that house,” she said.
I’m so glad I got to stop in here. Prior to reading Ted’s write up last week, I really knew nothing of the organization or its facilities. In fact, I kind of just assumed it was a gym for women kind of like the YMCA that I frequent for my workouts. True story. I’m sorry. As we know from Ted’s tour last week, YWCA actually provides transitional housing and support services for at-risk women and families. And yes, they do have a gym and pool that you can join.
Highlight: We got to stand in a vacant room that a woman will move into soon. She’ll pay $300 for little more than a college dorm, but for someone coming from the streets, a shelter or an abusive home, the value is in those four walls, that door that closes behind her for privacy and the feeling of safety.
This trip was great because it exposed me to causes and organizations I thought I knew but really didn’t. Sometimes I look at big complicated pictures like that and get discouraged that we can’t ever do enough to fix everything that needs fixing. I must not be the only one who feels like that because our tour organizers gave us a timed 3-minute task on our way to the last stop to show us how much we can do together in very little time. We had to stuff 500 pencil bags with school supplies before The Beatles’ “Help” ended. It’s a daunting task that won’t fix the whole problem, but you know what? We did it. We stuffed 500 bags in 3 minutes on a bus so that some kids who don’t have a lot can have something and that’s definitely something. Every little individual act all the way up to the big collective efforts of these organizations – it’s all something.