Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Bridging the Gap: Literacy by Keith Adams

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” Kofi Anan

I’m going to confess: my biggest fear is not being able to express myself.  A friend had a stroke this year and lost the ability to read. That scares me. Why? Being able to read and write, or speak and understand English is so important to me. Without it, my family and I would be stuck, economically disadvantaged, and we would be unable to participate fully in this community.

Really, if you think about it, the ability to express ourselves verbally and in writing is at the foundation of our American experience.  It’s so important that it is in the First Amendment … freedom of speech, the press, religion, expression is core to what it means to live here in America.  I was shocked that this summer the Literacy Council of Union County lost its funding and lost hope in accomplishing its mission, abandoning students and tutors.  Fortunately, members of this community, over 60 of them, felt strong enough to start to do something to reignite the adult literacy mission in our county.   

How did we get connected with adult literacy?  In June I heard about the closing.  I mentioned it to my wife, Deb. She was emphatic that we couldn’t let it die.  She noted how essential literacy is not only for getting a good job, but for daily life. So, I brought it up in a board meeting and we had a very engaged conversation about how important literacy is to our economic empowerment agenda. The board told me to find out what I could.  I made some calls and Linda Moyer reached out to me. Linda was one of the Council’s co-founders and is passionate about adult literacy. I had a visit from former board members, who like Linda, were outraged. As was Kelly Norton, a former Executive Director.  

Like in the early days of Common Heart, a small group of people spread the word and before long over 60 community members became part of the conversation representing education, churches, government, social services, and nonprofits. Former and current volunteers, tutors and staff of the Council joined with other community members and our volunteers and staff to start reviving adult literacy in Union County.

By August, it was decided that what we are calling the Literacy Volunteers would have a home at Common Heart and become one of our major program areas! We’re so excited! Gwen Bothun, Felicia Radcliff, Syl Walker along with Linda Moyer, Kelly Norton and I would be part of a steering committee coordinating the efforts of 3 teams of volunteers. Our task: support the current tutors and students, re-establish a presence in Monroe, expand the new program throughout Union County -- all on a shoestring budget driven by volunteers. 

Thanks to the generosity of friends who put up a matching grant and a local church we began raising funds. Lee Park Baptist Church committed to pay 3 months rent for our Monroe office which will be our connection in the community and house our computer lab. Thanks to the amazing vision of Signposts Ministries to provide a co-working space for nonprofit agencies near downtown Monroe we will be opening Common Heart’s newest location in Monroe this month. Watch for a grand opening and ribbon cutting once we are all set up and going!!

There’s so much to do to restart this program in our community. Three community teams are busy determining curriculum, policies for the program, setting up background support systems for tutors and students, and looking for funding.  Your help is needed!  This month we will be moving to our new Monroe location setting up the office and computer lab, and recruiting and training office and lab volunteers. It won’t be too long now!  If you are interested in helping, reach out to LiteracyVolunteers@CommonHeart.org

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Volunteers needed to continue adult literacy program in Union Co.

Common Heart is spearheading efforts to continue adult literacy tutoring following the recent closure of the Literacy Council of Union County ... and we need YOUR help!


An interest meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Community Shelter of Union County, 160 Meadow Street, in Monroe. We're looking for input from the community including past volunteers, tutors and just anyone else who wants to help other adults learn to read! We will be forming a steering committee.  RSVP to LiteracyVolunteers@CommonHeart.org or call Keith Adams at 704-218-9060. 

“Adult Literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring is critical in our community and needs to continue,” said Keith Adams, Executive Director of Common Heart. “We’re going to support the continuation of this important mission however we can. We’re looking to partner with individuals, churches and other organizations to keep the mission going. This is a group effort.”

Kelly Norton, a former executive director of the Literacy Council, said until you meet an adult who can’t read you don’t realize just how important literacy is.  

“Literacy impacts every part of a person’s life,” she said. “Every day we read street signs or a note from our child’s teacher without thinking about it. But for so many of our neighbors, reading is a life line.” 

Literacy Council co-founder and former director Linda Moyer has been working and volunteering in literacy since 1983 and was key to the Council’s founding in 1998. She’s hopeful that the work will continue in Union County and says she believes in the mantra: “If you can read, you can teach someone to read.”

“Other than the ability to read, a volunteer needs no special skills. A great literacy volunteer just has patience and the desire to help a neighbor,” Moyer said. “We need volunteers from a variety of backgrounds who have a passion for adult literacy.”

For more information about volunteering or joining the steering committee, email: LiteracyVolunteers@CommonHeart.org or call Keith Adams at 704-218-9060.  We hope you can join us! PLEASE SHARE this meeting with anyone you think may be interested!

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!