Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Common Things Boutique & Thrift Shop: More than just a great deal!

Common Things is not your ordinary run of the mill boutique or thrift store.  Just ask our customers, donors,  volunteers and staff!
Common Things offers great items at great prices and is also a place where our awesome volunteers enjoy coming to join us in our “small revolution of kindness.”  Common Things often plays the role of Common Heart’s “welcome center.”  Every week new customers come in and immediately notice that Common Things is different.  Not only does Common Things strive to create a well organized, clean and creatively eclectic shop but its mission is to support the efforts of Common Heart.  

When customers realize that a purchase of $20 feeds a hungry family of four for a week, they feel good about their purchases.  The same is true of our donors who often tell us that they are bringing their donations to Common Things because they know that they will make a difference in the community.
We regularly receive name brand, like new clothing donations like American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, Charlotte Russe, Lucky Brand, Aeropostale, Calvin Klein, LuLaRoe, Levi’s, Under Armour, Carhartt, Lilly Pulitzer and much more.  Common Things offers these at less than half of what customers would normally pay at consignment shops and most of our new and nearly-new clothing is priced below $5!  On top of that, twice a year our customers can literally purchase an entire wardrobe of clothing for $10-$15 during our famous bag sales, which are great for families with growing children.   
Common Things has something for everyone and every budget.  You can always find great bargains on home decor, linens, books, toys, antiques, collectibles, jewelry and much more.  Each week a plethora of items are put on the sales floor so that customers are always seeing new merchandise.   We often receive unique items that make us laugh or remind us of when we were young.  Sometimes we find that a donor has given us a “diamond in the rough” and with a little bit of elbow grease we’re able to sell that item and feed several families for a week.  
Common Things is also a place of healing for many who have walked thru our doors.  Whether it's our dedicated and hardworking staff stopping to pray with a crying grandmother worried about her grandchild or gathering clothing and blankets for a homeless resident, Common Things is here to help.  Our caring volunteers have often comforted and offered a listening ear to folks who are coping with the recent loss of a loved one or a terminal medical diagnosis.  Common Heart is about caring, loving and making a positive difference.  
“Even in those early days, it was very apparent that Common Things was much more than a thrift shop,” Associate Executive Director Deb Adams said. “Common Things is an extension of Common Heart that has touched the community in a way we never expected.  I’m honored and humbled that the Lord would channel His love through this small shop to those in desperate need.”
You never know who will be walking through the doors of Common Things and what adventures and opportunities will intersect and possibly change lives forever.   
Volunteers are always needed and appreciated!  We offer community service hours for high school and college students and others who may need them. Common Things also offers volunteer opportunities for groups of up to 10 people (teens & adults).  We Love our Volunteers & Our Volunteers Love to Serve!  
To volunteer at Common Things, email Deb@CommonHeart.org or call 704-234-8168.                                                                                                    

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Free tax prep is back!

This year's annual free tax service is OPEN with new partner, Community Link!

This is the seventh year Common Heart has offered free tax services, but the first year partnering with fellow nonprofit Community Link in Charlotte for assistance with volunteer training, marketing and more. Taxes are completed by trained and certified volunteers as part of the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program. Appointments are available through April 11.


Individuals and families with an annual household income of $54,000 or less are eligible for the free assistance. Residents do not need to live in Union County to qualify. Residents who would like to do their own taxes can do so for free through the program online at www.MyFreeTaxes.com.

In 2017, Common Heart volunteers filed a record-breaking 529 state and federal income tax returns. The service saved residents an estimated $92,000 in tax preparation fees and got them more than $500,000 in total refunds.


Our free tax service helps take the stress out of tax time and allows our hard-working neighbors to use the money they save on tax preparation fees for other needs, like school tuition, food, rent or medical bills,” Executive Director Keith Adams said. “We serve people from all walks of life – college students, teachers, hair stylists, retail staff, local government employees and retirees.”

The free service is available through April 11 by appointment only Tuesdays 3-8 p.m.; Wednesdays 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. and walk-ins are accepted Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. (Closed March 3 and 31).

To make an appointment, call 704-761-8482 or visit www.CommunityLinkNC.org. Don't forget to tell them you want your taxes done at Common Heart! 

Volunteer Site Coordinator Susan Ochs says she's excited to welcome familiar faces back and meet new friends, too.
For those who we haven't served before, I want them to know that yes, it really is free. There is no catch,” she said. “We prepare state and federal taxes, e-file them and they just have to sit back and wait for the return.”
To volunteer to become trained for the program, email Susan.Ochs@CommonHeart.org.

31,907 people served!

Common Heart Executive Director Keith Adams wrote to donors thanking them for their support in 2017 and sharing what's ahead in 2018. 

Dear friend,
Thank you so much for being a part of this small revolution of kindness! You are the reason that  thousands were touched with a practical demonstration of God's love in 2017.  Far too many in our community have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Your generosity in 2017 provided a week's worth of groceries to 31,907 people in our community! (That's more than 9,000 families! WOW!) Your generosity also helped another 29 families with crisis assistance.  
We're looking forward to another tax season assisting families preparing free income tax returns and accessing tax credits and refunds.  Last year 534 families took advantage of this free service that your generosity makes possible.  During this fall's open enrollment for health insurance, our partner Charlotte Legal Services saw 40 people at our site and helped them access affordable health insurance.  During Medicare's open enrollment our partner Union County Council on Aging helped 60 people at our site, saving them a combined total of $85,368 on their prescriptions. 
There are so many other ways your generosity made a difference for families.  The one I'm most excited about is a new Common Heart program, Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin' by World, which we beta tested in 2017. Your generosity made it possible for 12 families to experience this new program! Twelve heads of households went through a 40-hour investigation of poverty, the barriers to getting out of poverty and the resources needed to get ahead and move into self-sufficiency. 
In 2018, thanks to your continued generosity, we're expanding this class into a new program "Advocates for Change" which will bring graduates of Getting Ahead, our "Leaders for Change" together with a new group of trained volunteers, "Allies for Change."  Together they'll work to implement the "Leader's" plan to move out of poverty and work as a large group to help build "a sustainable community where all can do well."  This year our goal is to bring 24 household leaders through Getting Ahead and match them each with 2-3 allies.  Your prayers, support and volunteering will make all the difference for these families and our community.
There's a big year ahead! Thank you for being such a big part of 2017's successes and growth of this small revolution of kindness!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

That's why we're here!

We had the honor of serving a sweet couple in their early 60s today with an emergency box of food.

The reason why they stopped in asking for groceries hit home the fact that most of us are just one job loss or one major medical issue away from needing some help ourselves.   

The couple have had a rough 2 years. He's recovering from cancer treatments and had to quit his construction job. She recently lost her job and is having back problems. Their household also includes an adult son who requires medical care and a beloved 9-year-old dog who provides stress relief during this difficult time. 

"I'm sorry to bother you with this," our new friend said today as we packed up a box of essentials for his household.

"You have nothing to be sorry about," Barbara, our CONNECTS manager, quickly replied.

SO TRUE!!  We never want local families in need who turn to us for groceries to feel badly for having to do so. That's why we're here!

Click here if you'd like to join us in this "small revolution of kindness" by volunteering.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Walking to feed hungry families

YOU can help feed hungry families in our community just by walking!

We're adding the Freedom from Hunger Walk to our Common Heart Firecracker Run festivities in Lake Park the morning of Tuesday, July 4. The walk will occur at the same time as the race. Participants will collect donations for Common Heart before the event and walk (or run, hop, skip or jump!) to help end hunger in our community. These participants will enjoy FREE event registration and can win prizes based on the amount of donations collected.

It's easy!!!
  • Collect donations from your friends and family. Just $20 feeds a family for a week!
  • You'll have a personalized website to collect donations online and donation forms to collect in person donations.
  • You'll receive a participant T-shirt   and a chance to earn prizes!
  • There's no cost to participate. Each Walker commits to raising at least $100. But take note - our first-time walkers on average raise $700 or more! 




Sunday, May 21, 2017

'For my kids'

With the inaugural Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World graduation ceremony on Tuesday, we're sharing stories from a few of the participants.  Today we meet Italy --  a working single mom of four who is eager to save money for her children's needs. 
Join us Tuesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at Mill Grove UMC's Sun Valley campus for dinner and a celebration for these graduates and their families. Sign up here to let us know you're coming. 

In the past, it's been hard for Italy White to save money. The working single mom of four – ages 12, 10, 9 & 3 – is a school bus driver who first came to Common Heart last year seeking help with a rent bill. 
Italy White is saving the $25 Wal-Mart gift cards from Getting Ahead
classes to buy clothing and school supplies for her kids.

Her job means evenings and summers off with her kids, which also saves money on childcare, but makes it hard to pay the bills and put food on the table, she said. She was first interested in the Getting Ahead workshop because there's a free meal and childcare included each week.   

After just the first few weeks of Getting Ahead, Italy told us she had already learned a few things and was grateful to be part of the study group where they learn from each others' experiences. Recently the group was discussing budgeting and sharing tips for saving money. Each participant receives a $25 Wal-Mart gift card for each session they attend.   

“I'm learning how to save more money. I realized if I'd been saving it, I'd have more things and better things by now,” she said. “That's why I made the decision to save these $25 gift cards to buy clothes and school supplies for my kids during back to school time.”   

  


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Living paycheck to paycheck

With our first Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World graduation ceremony coming up next week, we're sharing stories from a few of the participants. Meet Rose Belcher-- a hard-working Mom of three who struggles to pay for the basics but still wants to help others. 
Join us Tuesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at Mill Grove UMC's Sun Valley campus for dinner and a celebration for these graduates and their families. Sign up here to let us know you're coming.

Rose Belcher supports her three kids – ages 14, 13 & 9 – by cleaning local businesses and homes.
Rose Belcher
Because she knows what it's like to live in poverty, she started her own nonprofit to help people “break that cycle.”  The Dove Ministries of Union County networks with other local nonprofits and businesses to find jobs and other resources for those in need.

And, often, her family needs help too as she struggles to make ends meet while facing the stress that comes with economic instability.

“If your child is sick and you miss a day of work, that puts you in a really tight spot if you're already living paycheck to paycheck,” Rose said. “It's been interesting to hear examples of what other people worry about: car, childcare, lawyer fees. We're concentrating on the necessities and by the time we're through with the bills – or before we're even done – there's no money left. What's tough for me is never being able to do the 'extras' like going out to dinner or allowing my kids to participate in sports. We just don't have the money.”