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.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cori's story: "God provides"

With the inaugural Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World graduation ceremony coming up next week, we want to share stories from a few of the participants. Meet Cori -- a neighbor in need who also helps others in our community struggling to buy groceries.
Join us Tuesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at Mill Grove UMC's Sun Valley campus for dinner and celebration for these graduates and their families. Sign up here to let us know you're coming.

Cori Favor is a volunteer delivery driver for our Common Cupboard food pantries who also receives
Getting Ahead participant Cori Favor
food for herself. In fact, until recently the 44-year-old didn't have a place to call home – she was finding shelter sleeping on friends' couches in Monroe. It's better than sleeping in her car, she said.    

With a background in Christian ministry, Cori has lived life in various economic classes. Until last month when she found a full-time job, she was working just 10-12 hours a week at Family Video. Her husband, recovering from a drug addiction, is in prison and will come home next month.  

“I've been in such diverse places economically. I've lived in a mansion and I've lived on the streets,” she said. “I think the biggest difference is ignorance of the other person's situation or knowing how to communicate.”

Despite the difficulties, Cori's not scared or depressed about her future.  

“God has provided. I don't always know how it's coming or when it's coming, but God provides,” she said.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Record-breaking free Income Tax Service!

Once again, our amazing free Income Tax Service volunteers had another record breaking season!

These caring folks filed a staggering 492 income tax returns for our friends in need – for FREE!
This year's free service saved residents an estimated $86,000 in tax preparation fees and got them almost $500,000 in total refunds.  WHOA!

This was the sixth year we offered free tax services, which are completed by trained and certified volunteers as part of the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program. This year, appointments were available in Indian Trail and in Monroe thanks to a partnership with The Lion & Lamb Family Advocacy Center at Memorial UMC in Monroe.

We were so thankful to be able to help neighbors from all walks of life -- college students, fast-food workers, teachers, hair stylists, retail staff, local government employees and retirees. 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 food, rent or medical bills. 

GREAT job tax service volunteers!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

In her own words ... one volunteer's story

One of our Cupboard volunteers, Lisa Richards, surprised us recently by submitting Common Heart for consideration as the Nonprofit of the Month with her employer, Chronotek in Waxhaw. We were thrilled to be honored with a donation and these kind words from Lisa.   
Lisa Richards

Check out her Common Heart story ...

About seven years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Keith Adams. An ordained minister, Keith has a heart for sharing God’s love with people at their most basic need: food. He is passionate about building bridges with those who live in poverty and decided that is where God needed him most.

This wonderful organization has grown from a few friends delivering food in 2006 to over 700 families being fed each month today. I have loved our family’s connection to this relational ministry that encourages not only monthly food delivery, but the fostering of friendships between people who may never meet in any other circumstance.

The friends that I have met when I deliver their groceries are dear to my heart and I look forward to my monthly visits with them. I have been a part of their struggles and joys and they of mine. I have been able to celebrate new babies and a wonderful young man entering college… the first in his family. I have been to funerals and checked on my friends when they are ill.

It’s amazing how God has opened my eyes to the similarities in all of His children, even those who may seem incredibly different.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Saving 10 volunteer hours a week!

2017 is bringing a lot of exciting changes to Common Heart!  

Among those is the implementation of a new online system, Charity Tracker, which will give us the ability for the first time to easily track how each neighbor we meet is helped at Common Heart.

In the past, each of our food pantries had their own database which required volunteers to manually enter data -- taking an average of 10 hours each week! Now, our neighbors in need receive ID cards with a bar code which is scanned each time we help them. That could be anything from receiving groceries to help paying a bill. We'll also be able to see where the funding came from -- was it microgiving? a grant? a church in our Charitas Network?

Participants in our Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World program will also be using Charity Tracker to take assessments and track their progress as they move toward stability. For the first time, we'll be able to efficiently measure outcomes for those we help.

We are looking for volunteers to serve Saturday mornings at our Cupboard food pantry in Indian Trail to specifically scan ID cards for the families who will receive deliveries that day. If you can help, email Volunteer@CommonHeart.org or call Corey Tossas at 704-218-9060. 

From "Bridging the Gap" to "Becoming a Bridge" for families in need

Pilot program to empower local families to end generational poverty

For 10 years we've focused on “bridging the gap” for local families in need by providing food. In 2017 though we want to do so much more. 

Thanks to grants from Speedway Children's Charities and the Grace & Hope Foundation, we're launching our first session of Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World on Feb. 7 at Mill Grove UMC's Sun Valley campus, which has generously donated its space for the 16-week program. The internationally-known program will be the first of its kind in the Union County area.   

We need volunteers to provide dinner and childcare which will be available for participants during weekly meetings.

Getting Ahead is our implementation of Bridges Out of Poverty concepts which we've taught through local workshops over the past year. The internationally-known Bridges is training for those in middle class and wealth to better understand the realities of those living in poverty and develop strategies to combat poverty. (Our next Bridges workshop is Jan. 28. To register, visit http://ServingU.CommonHeart.org).

Our desire is to go beyond ‘bridging the gap’ to transforming lives. We want to become the bridge that our neighbors in need can use to move out of survival mode and into stability. Getting Ahead has the potential to not only change a family and give hope to the next generation, but help solve persistent local problems related to poverty.

The program will hire 12 local residents in poverty as “investigators,” to paint a picture of local poverty. Together with a facilitator residents will investigate poverty and its effects in our community and their own lives while they discover resources to move into greater stability. At the end of the 48-hour program the larger community will be able to learn and better understand poverty, and these investigators will be empowered to solve these problems in their own lives and in the community.

They'll emerge with a plan and join the developing 'community of kindness' that will also assist them as allies in their own struggle. It's our hope that the Getting Ahead graduates together with Bridges allies in middle class & wealth will help to create a sustainable community where all can do well.

Our goal is personal and community transformation.

We need churches, restaurants or individuals to donate meals for the program and adult volunteers are also needed to help with childcare.

To help or learn how you can join the program, email CONNECTS@CommonHeart.org or call Barbara Anglin-Law at 704-218-9060.