Friday, September 11, 2020

Video: Small Revolution of Kindness

Whether you're new to this "small revolution of kindness" or have been around for years...we think you'll enjoy this video. We simply cannot operate without volunteers!
If you'd like to get involved in any capacity (food pantries, literacy, economic empowerment, office work & more!), email or call 704-218-9060. We can't wait to serve with you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dollar General grant boosts adult literacy program

Dion Rymer didn’t know how his family -- both locally and those still in the British Virgin Islands -- would react when they found out he enrolled in Common Heart’s adult literacy program to improve his reading and writing skills. He describes their reactions in two words: Very proud. 
Dion Rymer & Karen Leadermen
The 38-year-old Indian Trail resident moved with his wife and 16-year-old daughter to Indian Trail almost 2 years ago after hurricanes devastated his native islands. He was working full-time to support his family, but still had a dream: going to college to prepare for a career in information technology. 

A quick online search led him to a new free program that he hoped could help: Common Heart Literacy Volunteers. Dion was the first student to sign up. Now, almost a year later, he’s completed the program and is enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College where he’s excited to take the first steps toward the career he wants. 

And thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, many more Union County adults will learn to improve their reading and writing skills. This grant is part of more than $8.6 million in grants awarded to more than 950 schools, nonprofits and organizations across the communities Dollar General serves. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $182 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 11 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education. 

“During these extraordinary times, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation remains steadfast in its commitment to support communities’ literacy and educational advancements through funds that will impact thousands of students across the country,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO and Dollar General Literacy Foundation board member. “We are proud to support the meaningful and impactful work that each of today’s recipients conduct and support their ongoing efforts to help individuals improve their lives through literacy and education.” 

Dion’s success story is a true highlight for the Literacy Volunteers program which allowed Dion to set -- and then achieve -- reachable goals. 

Of course, he had plenty of help. It wasn’t until Dion first met with his volunteer tutor, Karen Leadermen, that they realized they lived in the same Indian Trail neighborhood and even used the same gym! That made for easy trips to tutoring sessions, sometimes even meeting in the neighborhood clubhouse. The two have become “good friends,” Dion said. Karen calls it a “magical match.” 

Karen’s first task, she said, was to get Dion to see that he could learn and learn well. 

“In my approach, it was really important for me to take into consideration his age, his family status, his diversity that he comes to the table with and his goals as an individual,” Karen said. “Dion came with some insecurities about where he wanted to be as an adult male to represent himself, his extended family and the way he communicated. Some of the process was helping him develop some assertiveness and the ability to explain his needs and desires. He really did not have a cognitive understanding of his skills. I would tell him ‘Dion, you’re blowing me away,’ and he would not believe me.” 

There was always homework, but Dion didn’t mind. He amazed himself with how quickly his skills improved. His island accent sometimes caused a misinterpretation of a word and misspellings, but that was something the duo worked through as well. They ended each session reviewing what they had accomplished that day. 

“We started with just the basics as I was building self confidence,” Dion said. “Karen would say ‘don’t get flustered, it’s just a process.’ She basically explained to me I have a lot of raw talent, I just need someone to basically clean it up. She kept telling me ‘you’re smart, you’re smart, you’re smart.’ She just kept putting that energy in me and after a while I started to feel that energy and see that energy. I started to believe in myself.” 

Karen’s encouragement was key to completing the program, Dion said, and he’s glad to have found a friend to help navigate his first college experience. 

“When I have Karen there, I think I’ll make it through,” he said. “She just always has the right words to say to keep me going.” 

Dion has some encouraging words for other Union County adults who want to improve their English reading and writing skills. 

“It’s never too late,” he said. “You just have to take that first step. It’s going to be scary, but you just have to do it.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Lunch(less) & Learn workshops!

We're excited to announce that Common Heart is hosting a series of FREE Lunch(less) & Learn workshops on the first Wednesday of every month.  

The workshops, which start next Wednesday (Sept. 2) will be from Noon to 1 pm and will be based on Bridges Out of Poverty which is a framework to understand poverty and promote individual and community transformation. Keith Adams, Common Heart Executive Director and member of the Steering Committee for Thrive! Union, will be sharing this vital information.

Next week's workshop is called "The Lenses by Which We See the World."  In this one-hour workshop we will explore mental models and how we as individuals approach our understanding of community sustainability and poverty.  The goal is to understand ourselves, our community, and our part in the community and how we can act as agents of change. Register online:

Please join us for this introductory workshop! Whether you are a concerned citizen, leader in business or government, social worker or educator, policeman or nurse, you will come away with a better understanding of those in our community who struggle and how to work toward increased economic mobility and sustainability in our community.

This workshop is a part of Common Heart's Economic Empowerment programs.

For over 14 years, Common Heart has provided the basics of food to those in our county who face food insecurity.  Four years ago we began our Economic Empowerment focus through the Bridges Out of Poverty framework and have become a community advocate empowering the lives and voices of those living in or near poverty in our community. 

When the stay at home order was issued during March of 2020 we shifted back to the basics of food insecurity.  Knowing the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be deep and hit those who have been struggling the most the hardest, we are seeking to get ahead of the game restarting and increasing our focus on Economic Empowerment in the fall of 2020. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Bank of America grant will help local families escape poverty

 Sarah Kimbrough signed up to take Common Heart’s Getting Ahead classes for the $425 in gift cards (the free weekly dinners and free childcare were nice bonuses, too). But this Common Heart focus group quickly became much more to Sarah and her family as they started their journey out of poverty. 
“During the very first class I thought ‘I fit in here. They understand.’ It’s not that I choose to be poor,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t just the contents of the workbook that helped me. It was what we were getting from each other. Helping others overcome their obstacles helps you overcome your own.”   At the start of Getting Ahead last year, Sarah -- a former paramedic and Mom of 4 -- had to hotwire her car on and off each time she needed to travel. Their cupboards always seemed to be running low and the bills were piling up. Her husband was working but she couldn’t find any jobs that would still allow her to care for their children -- three of whom have special needs. 
Sarah Kimbrough

Now, more than a year later, Sarah has a part-time job that works with her schedule to care for the children, thanks to networking and resource sharing at Getting Ahead. They have a reliable vehicle and she says they’re “working on not just paying bills, but saving for the future.” 
This Monroe native says the experience not only helped her family, but encouraged her to help others in similar situations. After graduating from the program, Sarah served as a co-facilitator for the most recent Getting Ahead group and has since completed training to facilitate the next group on her own. She’s also a key member of the Common Heart committee working to host the first official R Rules session -- a similar class for teens.    And thanks to a generous grant from Bank of America, Common Heart will be able to help even
more families like Sarah’s take those first steps out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. Bank of America and Common Heart are partnering to connect our community to empowerment resources. Half of the grant funding will support expanding the Getting Ahead work group sessions for families living in poverty as well as the teen R Rules class and an expanded series of workshops for families to build resources. These programs will be restarting online in the coming weeks. The grant also includes funding for Common Heart’s expanded food pantry services and adult literacy. 
“We’re impressed with the level of services and care Common Heart is delivering for Union County residents,” said Bank of America Charlotte Market President Charles Bowman. “At the core of what they do is a proven model for moving members of this community ​to a path out of poverty ​through impactful workshops and resource building.” 
 Sarah says she’s taking “baby steps” toward her long-term goals and can’t wait to facilitate the next Getting Ahead class & R Rules so she can share what she’s learned. 
“I was just really inspired by the whole Getting Ahead class, learning how to build resources and networking and understanding how to build my credit and move up the ladder,” she said. “During the first chapter in Getting Ahead you learn about how people living in poverty have a unique skillset. We’re amazing problem solvers and know how to survive and make things work. With COVID, there are many people who were never in a situation like this before but they are now. I’m excited that we know how to help and I can pass that information along and help them. Who knew that being poor would come in so handy?”  

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Spreading T-shirt at a time

We got a phone call yesterday from a local grandmother who was so excited to share a story about the difference our volunteer T-shirt was making (yes....we said a T-shirt!). 

Her grandson volunteered with us for the first time at our Mill Grove food pantry and loved it so much that he's been wearing our volunteer T-shirt every. day. since. Yes-- every day! (but don't worry -- Grandma makes him wash it between wears). He's even been wearing it to work!

What's so special about this T-shirt?  Is it the color? The cotton/polyester blend? Perhaps it's the flattering cut? NO, the magical properties of this T-shirt are, well...not existent on their own. You see, each one of our volunteer T-shirts is designed with a quote about kindness or compassion. It's the "small revolution of kindness" message that resonates with people. 

Especially now, the world needs more kindness. Our expansion project to open the East Union Empowerment Center in Marshville is just another way -- a powerful way -- to spread kindness and help to our neighbors in need in a very underserved area of Union County. 

That's why we launched our #StrongerTogether fundraising campaign. We need help (especially in the form of monthly donors) to sustain this new location for years to come. We don't want this Center  -- which will include a food pantry, classroom space and a childcare area -- to be "just" a pandemic thing. We want the kindness (and help) to go farther, longer. And thanks to your help, it will! 

You can give now online at or mail us a check. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rockin' fun for kids!

Many of the children our volunteers have served this month have gotten an extra special treat thanks to our friends at the Union County Community Arts Council -- rock painting kits!!!

These fun arts projects are being handed out to families with children who come to one of our evening pantries throughout the county. We can't tell you how many SMILES we've seen with these special gifts!

Barbara Faulk, executive director of the Arts Council, said her 40-year-old nonprofit organization donated about 230 of the kits and is "pleased to support Common Heart’s mission to serve the vital needs of our community" with adding some art enrichment.

"Our organization believes that the arts fulfill a basic human need to create, design, explore and engage in an activity that brings joy and happiness through challenging times," Barbara said. "It is our pleasure to support Common Heart’s mission by showing our love, compassion and kindness."


Did you know the Arts Council also provides: 

Arts in Education – cultural arts programs and services serve all Union County schools by promoting education, character and moral development.  Programs address bullying, inclusion, diversity and self-esteem.  Over 45,600 students were served in 2020 through UCCAC arts education programs.

Community Programs – Community outreach is a goal of UCCAC, sponsoring dozens of cultural events each year.  Over 130,000 residents received the benefit of community events in 2020.

Grant Programs – offering grant opportunities for Union County artists and art organizations and for system-wide teacher and school projects related to the arts.  Over $160,000 was awarded to artists, artists organizations, schools and community organizations in 2020.

For more details, visit or find the Arts Council on Facebook!   


Monday, July 20, 2020

Common Things -- we're going online!

As our regular shoppers know, we were transitioning into ShopPhilanthropic Boutique when COVID hit which stopped us in our tracks. 
BUT it's not goodbye!!         
We saved the "best of the best" from our brick & mortar shop and you'll see many of those items for sale online in the coming months via Ebay and our our newly created Facebook auction group! You can join now (for FREE!) -- just search for Common Heart Auction Group and click "join." We'll be launching our first online auction fundraiser soon.
And YES items can be shipped to winners nationwide (with shipping charge) or you can pick up from our office in Indian Trail, NC. Invite your friends and family to join us! 
Like always ... every purchase will help feed our neighbors in need and support other programs to help families living in poverty!

Regular shopper Tina says Common Things was her "favorite shopping place" and she "can't wait" for the auctions to start!
Sharon posted "I am just heartbroken about the closing but I will continue to support you online." 
We'll also be selling shirt & pant hangers in bulk and still have a few rolling shelving fixtures for sale. If you're interested in either of these, email  
For almost 10 years, we have loved getting to know YOU -- our amazing Common Things shoppers & donors -- and hope you'll continue to follow and support us during this transition. For many, Common Things was their first introduction to the life-changing work of Common Heart. Your purchases have helped fund this "small revolution of kindness"... and we're not done yet!! Many thanks to all our volunteers and staff who served so diligently over the years!
**We aren't able to take any donations at this time. We recommend our friends at Turning Point's Second Chance Boutique (with locations in Monroe & Waxhaw).