Nonprofit news roundup, 11.26.14

Solicitors pocket 58% of North Carolinians’ donations

Charities received only 42 cents of every dollar donated by North Carolinians to North Carolina charities in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014, in response to solicitations from professional fundraisers, a report from the state Secretary of State’s Office says.

North Carolinians donated $21.4 million in response to solicitations, and only $9 million of those funds went directly to charities, the report says.

In comparison, it says, solicitation campaigns for national charities that included North Carolina donors generated $297.2 million in donations, and only $110.9 million, or 37.3 percent, went directly to charities.

Giving this year, both in North Carolina and in the U.S., fell dramatically, the report says, and hit a four-year low, according to news reports.

Bordeaux leaving PLM Families Together; Breit named interim executive

Beth Bordeaux has stepped down as executive director of PLM Families Together in Raleigh, and Eric Breit, former interim executive director at Housing for New Hope in Durham, has been named interim executive director.

Bordeaux, who has served as executive director since April 2010, told the nonprofit’s board, staff, supporters and partners in a letter two months ago that she wanted to “embark on a new path for myself and my career.”

She said by phone that she wants to spend more time with her family, and plans to return to her former work as a consultant to nonprofits and churches.

She agreed to remain at the nonprofit through today to assist with the transition at PLM Families Together, which works to help homeless families find stability.

“She leaves the organization in great standing financially, operationally and programmatically,” says Breit, who began working two weeks ago in the interim job.

Kathy Blum, the board president, and John Davis, its vice president, said in a separate letter to the organization’s partners, supporters, friends and colleagues that Bordeaux leaves PLM Families together in a “stable financial position, and at the end of an extensive strategic planning process that is nearly complete.”

The board has formed a search committee to find a successor to Bordeaux, as well as its first-ever development director. Creating the new development position is a result of the strategic plan, Bordeaux said.

Greater Carolinas Chapter of MS Society names president

Kristina Fransel McGraw, former vice president of community outreach for the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has joined the Greater Carolinas Chapter as president.

With offices in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, the Greater Carolinas Chapter serves over 18,000 individuals living with MS in 97 counties in North Carolina and all of South Carolina people.

Greensboro United Way awards $275,000

United Way of Greater Greensboro has awarded 17 grants totaling $275,000 through two grant programs it manages.

The Kathleen & Joseph Bryan Community Enrichment and Venture Grant invests in new and innovative programs, and the Joseph M. Bryan Human Services Grant provides stabilization and expansion grants for programs already demonstrating success.

Grant recipients, selected through a competitive request-for-proposals process, serve children and youth through education; work to help individuals and families become financial stable and independent; and work to help individuals lead a healthy life.

Greensboro Hospice forms foundation

Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro has created a foundation to build its financial stewardship and fundraising efforts.

Chaired by Ron Johnson of law firm Johnson, Peddrick & McDonald, the Foundation now is responsible for raising money to support Hospice.

The Foundation’s board will oversee fundraising campaigns and events for Hospice, including its annual campaign, Light Up A Life, and Corks for Kids Path.

Trustees of the Foundation also will review the annual performance and distributions fro the endowment at Hospice.

Women’s event raises $110,000 for mammograms

The 22nd Women’s Only 5K Walk & Run at Cone Health in Greensboro on November 11 drew 2,549 women and raised $110,316 to support mammograms to screen women for breast cancer.

Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation raises

Starry Night, new walk/run event hosted in Los Angeles on November 22 by the Asheville-based Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, raised $33,000.

Goetz Foundation raises over $7,000

Noah Z.M. Goetz Foundation raised over $7,000 at its annual gala on November 13 and will use the fund for its grant and education programs to help North Carolinians that previously battled infertility become parents through domestic adoption.

Greensboro Boys & Girls Clubs on Garth Brooks Teammates tour

Seventy kids in grades two through six at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greensboro participated in a free camp offered on November 22 by the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation and ProCamps.

The camp featured Brooks and Wendy Palmer, a former WNBA All-Star who is head women’s basketball coach at UNC Greensboro.

Rural physicians program recognized by state

The Community Practitioner Program, a program of the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation that is designed to encourage doctors to practice in rural and underserved areas of the state, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary, received special recognition from the state Office of Rural Health and Community Care.

Gov. Pat McCrory named November 20 National Rural Health Day for the state.

Grants available for visiting lecturers, musicians, artists

Applications for grants of up to $5,000 from the Morris and Lillian Sosnik Memorial Fund of The Winston-Salem Foundation to bring visiting lecturers, musicians, and artists to the community may be submitted until February 2 at 5 p.m.

Retirement community residents make donation to Food Shuttle

Residents of SearStone, a one-year-old retirement community in Cary, donated unused dining credits that were then used to by 1,600 pounds of food for Inter-Faith Food Shuttle  in Raleigh.

Anonymous donor agrees to triple contributions to cat shelter on ‘Giving Tuesday’

An anonymous donor has agree to give $2 to SAFE Haven for Cats, a no-kill shelter in Raleigh, for every $1 it receives on December 2, the date of a national giving initiative known as “Giving Tuesday.”

Beautiful Butterflies teams with Hornets

Beautiful Butterflies, a High Point nonprofit that works to provide support, services and education to people affected by lupus, mainly minorities, is partnering with the Charlotte Hornets.

At the Hornets’ “Community Corner” during its December 22 game with the Denver Nuggets, Beautiful Butterflies will have the opportunity to highlight its organization to fans, advertise upcoming events, and raise money.

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Tell your nonprofit’s story with facts, and passion

Every time you get to tell your nonprofit’s story is an opportunity to raise awareness about your cause and inspire people to get involved in it.

So make the best of those opportunities by giving people the facts about the need you address and the impact you make, and showing them the passion that fuels your mission.

The facts will speak for themselves: Explain, simply and clearly, the challenges facing the people you serve. Talk about the causes of those challenges in language that is easy to grasp. And explain what your organization does to fix what is wrong, and the difference you make in the lives of the people you serve.

You do not need to overstate either the problems you address or the results you produce. The facts, if you are clear and logical in explaining them, will do that.

What you can do is breathe life into those facts by helping people understand the urgency of your cause.

Do that not by exaggerating the problem you address or your impact but by being authentic about the needs in your community and your role in making it a better place to live and work.

Facts, expressed with conviction, can be eloquent and powerful.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Nonprofit center works to support LGBT community

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last spring, when high schools typically hold their proms, 125 teens from throughout the Triangle with a sexual orientation outside the mainstream, as well as their allies, gathered at the Community United Church of Christ on Dixie Trail in Raleigh for their own dance, known as the “Second Chance Prom.”

Sponsored by the LGBT Center of Raleigh, a nonprofit that serves 700 to 1,000 youth, adults and elders who identify as lesbian,  gay, bisexual or transgender, the event was one of a handful of programs that aim to create a sense of community and provide support for “sexual minority youth.”

In the wake of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in October that let stand an appeals court ruling allowing same-sex marriage, the challenge now for the LGBT movement is to continue to work for the same rights and opportunities that most Americans take for granted, says James Miller, executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh.

“Just because you have marriage doesn’t mean you are equal in the eyes of the law,” he says. “On the ground, we’ve been fighting for health  care, for employment, to make sure people have a place to live.”

Operating with an annual budget of $350,000, a staff of two people working full-time and one working part-time, and 150 active volunteers from a core of 500 volunteers who together clock over 12,000 hours of volunteer time a year, the LGBT Center is one of a national network of 125 LGBT community centers, and one of only a handful in the South that are thriving, Miller says.

Formed in 2008, the LGBT Center merged in 2010 with Triangle Community Works, a coalition of groups that was created in 1994 with the initial goal or improving health outcomes for sexual minority youth.

In addition to the Second Chance Prom, which is held each winter and spring, youth programs at the LGBT Center also include QueerNC, which focuses on positive youth development; social media outreach through Twitter and Facebook; ASPYRE, or a Safer Place for Youth to Reach Excellence, a leadership camp held in Greensboro over a three-day weekend each March; and a get-together that is held once a month in a different coffee shop and typically attracts 30 to 60 teens.

“We recognized that many youth, if they were queer or questioning, would not feel comfortable coming into the Center,” says Miller.

Research has found that 40 percent of youth who pass through homeless shelters throughout the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, says Miller, 30, who says he did not disclose he was gay until he was in college.

“Every day of my life was being hidden,” he says. “I was afraid of losing a roof over my head.”

Through its SAGE Raleigh program for people age 50 and older, a national program known as Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, the LGBT Center provides a listserve with 150 subscribers, and serves about 300 people who visit the Center on a regular basis. It also host dances, meets-and-greets, and lunch-and-learn sessions on topics on a range of human-development issues such as health, retirement and marriage.

Its HealthWorks program provides outreach on health, financial, spiritual, physical, mental and environmental issues, as well as HIV testing provided at its offices twice a week by the Wake County Health Department.

And the Center provides mainly social and educational programs through its Transgender Initiative, which serves roughly 500 people a year.

A key focus for the Center, Miller says, is working with straight allies, supporting policies that are “informed finally by education and fact and not by fear,” and, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, “educating people that the fight is not over.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 11.21.14

Hood leaving Locke Foundation to head Pope Foundation

John Hood, president, CEO and a founder of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Raleigh, has been named president of the John William Pope Foundation, a Raleigh-based grantmaking foundation.

Hood, who begins his new job January 5 and will continue to chair the board of the Locke Foundation, succeeds business executive Art Pope, who is stepping down as president of the Pope Foundation and will continue to chair its board.

Succeeding Hood as president and CEO of Locke Foundation, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in February, will be Kory Swanson, its long-time executive vice president.

Pope, who stepped down this year as state budget director, is chairman and CEO of Variety Wholesalers and co-founder of the Pope Foundation.

His daughter, Joyce Pope, has served as vice president of the Pope Foundation since July 2013.

Public School Forum launching initiative to boost new teachers

The Public School Forum of North Carolina will launch an initiative in 2015 aimed at retaining and supporting new public school teachers in the state.

With a grant from Golden Corral, the Forum will pilot its Beginning Teacher Network in Wake County next spring, and operate the program for its first full year in 2015-16, with plans to expand to additional counties.

North Carolina loses roughly half its public school teachers within their first five years in the classroom, says Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Forum.

“With increasing teacher turnover in recent years and declining enrollment at our state’s teacher preparation programs,” Poston says in a statement, “it is critical we support our teachers at the beginning of their careers, both to help them develop even more quickly into highly effective teachers, and to keep them in the profession long-term.”

To better retain, support and speed development of new teachers, the new initiative will include monthly face-to-face forums and digital networking in the areas of education policy and advocacy; cross-curricular collaboration; and professional development.

Triangle arts groups get grants to build capacity

Ten small and medium-sized arts groups in the Triangle have been picked to participate the New Realities Triangle Regional Initiative, a capacity-building program presented through a partnership of Triangle Community Foundation and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Each group will receive a $3,450 grant for consulting provided by ARTS Action Research.

The groups, which also will participate in regional roundtables and receive individualized technical assistance over the course of a year, are: Artsplosure – The Raleigh Arts Festival; Deep Dish Theater Company; Durham Symphony; Full Frame Documentary Film Festival at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University; Hidden Voices; Justice Theater Project; Mallarme Chamber Players; North Carolina Opera; Raleigh Review; and Southern Documentary Fund.

ArtsGreensboro kicks off $1.2 million campaign

ArtsGreensboro has launched its 2015 ArtsFund campaign, setting a goal of $1.2 million.

Funds raised through the campaign will provide support to over 50 arts organizations, artists, and teachers.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, ArtsGreensboro provided $1.2 million in funding and in-kind support to the local arts community.

Co-chairing the campaign are Denny Kelly, chairwoman of Bouvier Kelly, and Josephus Thompson III, a poet and Founder of The Poetry Project.

Cash giving grows to churches, faith-based nonprofits

Annual cash charitable giving to 1,525 churches and nonprofits accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, or ECFA, grew 6.9 percent in 2013, up from an increase of 6.4 percent in 2012 and 1.7 percent in  2011, a new report says.

The 5th Annual State of Giving Report from ECFA reflects total cash donations of $11.6 billion in 2013, up from $10.9 billion in 2012.

While the report focuses on cash giving, non-cash giving held relatively steady in 2013, growing 0.7 percent to $3.4 billion of gifts.

Total revenue grew 8.2 percent to $23.1 billion for 2013, compared with $21.4 billion for 2012.

Cash giving grew 18.8 percent for camps and conferences; 13.9 percent for children’s homes; 12.3 percent for students and youth; 12 percent for orphan care; 10.7 percent for medical programs; 10.2 percent for relief and development; child sponsorship; 10 percent for child development; and 10 percent for leadership training.

Data for the report, unadjusted for inflation, comes directly from financial statements, mainly audits, prepared by independent certified public accountants.

Online give-a-thon in Minnesota raises $18.2 million in a day

Nonprofits and schools across Minnesota raised a record-high $18.3 million on November 13 through the sixth annual Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour online give-a-thon.

Over 62,607 people donated to 5,544 organizations through GiveMN.org, representing increases of 20 percent in the number of donors and 25 percent  in the number of organizations receiving gifts, compared to last year’s event, which raised a total of $17.1 million.

Meredith College raises $18 million

Meredith College in Raleigh says it raised over $18 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, eclipsing its previous record-high annual total of $7.2 million.

Meredith says its endowment also grew to a record-high of over $93 million.

Greensboro Children’s Museum gets $25,000

Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation had made a $25,000 grant to the Greensboro Children’s Museum to establish “Outdoor Engineers,” an educational program for students in kindergarten through second grade that promotes science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

8,800 kids sign up for Wake Salvation Army’s Christmas program

The Salvation Army of Wake County registered a record-high 8,807 children from Wake County for its annual Christmas Cheer Program that will provide children in need with toys, stockings and clothing.

Triad Health Project to hold walk, run on December 5

Triad Health Project, the region’s HIV/AIDs service organization, will hold its 23rd Annual Winter Walk for AIDS and its inaugural Ron Johnson 5K run on December 1 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The new 5K is named for a partner in law firm Johnson, Peddrick & McDonald in Greensboro who has raised a total of roughly $400,000 over the past 21 years for the Annual Winter Walk for AIDS to support programs and services at Triad Health Project.

Paradigm 360 teams with Junior Achievement

On November 21, volunteers from Paradigm 360 partnered with Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina and and volunteered in every classroom Kimberley Park Elementary School in Winston-Salem to help students complete in a single day the five lessons in JA’s program that focuses on entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy.

Children’s Home Society launches Little Red Stocking drive

Children’s Home Society of North Carolina has launched its annual Little Red Stocking campaign to raise money to provide families for children in need.

Proceeds from last year’s Little Red Stocking Fund helped the agency serve 17,321 children and families, including placing 590 children with foster families, giving 113 children a permanent family, assisting 1,229 families with post-adoption services, counseling 65 birth parents, and providing educational services to 13,231 teens, professionals and parents.

Nearly 10,000 children live in foster care in North Carolina, and more than 2,000 children await adoption, the agency says.

ROTC students volunteering at Benevolence Farm

Forty Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students from UNC-Chapel Hill will volunteer this weekend at Benevolence Farm in Graham, sawing down trees and clearing land. The nonprofit farm will provide transitional housing, jobs and support for women getting out of prison.

Theatre Raleigh gets first development director

Leono Taylor, former development officer at InterAct, has joined Theatre Raleigh as its first development director.

Raleigh Little Theatre gets $10,000

Raleigh Little Theatre received a $10,000 grant from the Jandy Ammons Foundation to support installation of a new hearing loop system in the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. The hearing loop will enable patrons with hearing aids to tap into an electromagnetic signal through telecoil, or T-coil, broadcast throughout the theater.

Surry Community College gets truck donation

Hardy Brothers has given the Truck Driver Training and HVAC programs at Surry Community College in Dobson a 2007 Peterbilt tractor and enclosed trailer, along with three refrigeration trailer units.

Reynolds Trust gives $10.6 million

The Health Care Division of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem made 44 grants totaling over $10.6 million to improve the health of low-income individuals throughout the state.

Don’t be fooled by how much you think you know

A big stumbling block in the charitable world to making a big impact is the inflated vocabulary that muddies the way nonprofits and foundations communicate.

Often seduced by how much they think they know, professionals who work at charities can get hooked on using technical and academic language, jargon and acronymns that can confuse and turn off the supporters, volunteers, donors and partners that charities count on to do their work.

Instead of using the fewest possible words to tell a story that is clear and compelling, many nonprofits and foundations seem overly fond of using a lot of words that are big, abstract, vague and ultimately meaningless and off-putting.

Charity professionals, like their peers in fields such as education and government, also tend to favor the passive voice, as if to avoid any responsibility or accountability for their actions and decisions.

So in telling your story and communicating with the audiences you need to reach, use common sense and keep it simple.

To help do that, get to know the people you are trying to reach, and what they care about. Be direct, use plain words and the active voice, and say what you mean.

And steer clear of the annoying philanthro-babble that devalues the important work you do and makes you sound abstract, clinical and full of yourself.

Your job is to help people understand your cause, not to impress your peers with how much specialized knowledge you have acquired about your field and about philanthropy.

So when you tell your story, make it real.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or toddcohen49@gmail.com.

Food, dignity and hope for people in need

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This article was written for Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.]

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For most Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, sit down to a special meal with their family, reflect on what life has given them, and maybe give something back.

But for each of the one in four households in the Greensboro and High Point region that live in a state of “food insecurity” — the region trails only New Orleans as the metropolitan area in the U.S. with the highest food hardship per capita — Thanksgiving is just one more day of struggling to survive, as well as a reminder that they lack what other households take for granted.

For the past 28 years, through an initiative known as Community Tables, a total of 85,000 people in need in the region have been able to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, while thousands of volunteers have had the opportunity to participate in the tradition of giving back.

Supported by roughly $20,000 that individuals contribute each year to the Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund at Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, volunteers for Community Tables prepare meals that other volunteers from local churches and nonprofits pick up and either serve to people and families in need or deliver to their homes.

“It’s something they don’t have every day,” says Mary Lacklen, a co-founder of Community Tables and director of restaurant operations for Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants. “It’s about giving thanks for what we do have.”

Feeding people in need

For the past four years, North Carolina has ranked among the 10 states with the highest share of people who find themselves short of food. The state also is among the 10 states with the highest share of children who don’t get food on a regular basis. And the metro region that includes Greensboro and High Point, along with Winston-Salem, ranks second-to-worst in the U.S. in the level of food insecurity.

“Sometimes dignity is taken away, with no job or income, and children in need,” Lacklen says. “There is such a high population of kids and so many families who are struggling to make ends meet. They may not be homeless, but they may have only one job in the household, and the other person has lost theirs, and the one job may be for a minimum wage. They should be able to celebrate Thanksgiving just like the rest of us.”

Ken Conrad, another co-founder of Community Tables and chairman of Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants, says the needs of hungry people in the region are greater than ever.

The collapse of the economy in 2008 led to massive unemployment, including the loss of jobs in the textile and tobacco industries that are “gone forever,” and the exodus overseas of jobs in the local furniture industry, says Conrad, who also serves as chairman of the National Restaurant Association.

Guilford and Rockingham counties have been particularly hard hit, as has Forsyth County, and unemployment rates in the region are among the highest in the state, he says.

A tradition of giving back

Inspired by a Christmas meal that the late Marc Freiberg, owner of Ham’s Restaurants, had provided for years to people in need, Community Tables was launched in 1986 as an annual community project by the now-defunct Guilford County Restaurant Association.

Initially, volunteers prepared about 200 Thanksgiving dinners at the Salvation Army, cooking whole turkeys in pit cookers in the organization’s parking lot in downtown Greensboro.

After three years, unable to feed the growing number of hungry people in the community who otherwise would not have had a Thanksgiving dinner, Community Tables moved production of its Thanksgiving meals to Potter’s House, the community kitchen operated by Greensboro Urban Ministry.

And last year, thanks to a generous offer from the City of Greensboro, Community Tables moved its operation to the kitchen at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Anna Freiberg, who is Marc Freiburg’s daughter and operates Bender’s Tavern, continues to serve about 1,000 Christmas dinners a year at the restaurant to people in need.

That effort, supported by Community Tables and by donations to the Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund that donors may earmark to support the Christmas meal, continues the tradition that the Freiberg family has spearheaded for decades in the Jewish community to serve Christmas dinner to Christians in need.

Volunteers and donors giving back

Community Tables truly is a community effort.

Through its Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro raises about $20,000 a year that Community Tables uses to buy food to serve about 3,000 meals a year.

Roughly 300 volunteers a year sign up on Facebook, at ThanksgivingHolidayFundGSO, to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, working either during the 11 a.m.-to-6 p.m. shift the day before Thanksgiving, or during the 5 a.m.-to-9:30 a.m. shift on Thanksgiving Day.

Separate courses for the meals are prepared at a handful of locations, including Victory Junction, a camp in Randleman for kids with serious illnesses, which cooks 1,200 pounds of boneless turkey breasts, and Painted Plate Catering in Greensboro, which prepares the gravy and stuffing.

Volunteers deliver those separate courses to the kitchen at Greensboro Coliseum, where other volunteers carve the turkeys; prepare mashed potatoes, green beans, and candied yams; package portions of those foods and cranberry sauce into boxes; and cut slices of pumpkin pies that have been purchased and put them into individual containers.

Then volunteers from churches and nonprofits partnering with Community Tables pick up the meals and either serve them at their own facilities or deliver them to people at their homes.

Meals on Wheels and Senior Resources, for example, deliver the Thanksgiving dinner to elderly shut-ins, while Triad Health Project delivers it to people with HIV/AIDS.

Delancey Street Foundation, a residential self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit hard times, serves the meals to families at its facility.

Summerfield United Methodist Church provides the meals for people who pick them up at the church.

And other churches and nonprofits typically request Thanksgiving dinners from Community Tables.

Conrad himself drives his company’s refrigerated truck to pick up the cooked turkeys at Victory Junction and deliver them to the kitchen at Greensboro Coliseum.

“It gives me personal satisfaction,” he says. “If you feed one person who was not going to eat, then it’s all worth while.”

A gathering for family

Several years ago, Conrad and Lacklen recognized that families in need typically were not turning up at shelters and other facilities that were serving the Thanksgiving dinner prepared by volunteers for Community Tables.

“The original intent was to feed the homeless,” Conrad says. “There are a lot of needy families, including children, who would not go to a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving. It’s just not an atmosphere conducive to kids.”

So he and Lacklen looked for community partners that would serve meals to families and children, along with homeless individuals, at their own facilities.

Starting in 2012, Congregational United Church of Christ has partnered with Community Tables to serve about 300 meals at its fellowship hall.

Volunteers provide flowers and tablecloths for the tables, and serve as waiters. And families often dress up for the occasion.

“We’re trying to provide a family atmosphere,” Lacklen says. “One woman had tears in her eyes. She said she had finally found a place where she was treated with a level of dignity and respect, and she could be proud in front of her kids.”

Community Tables also has provided many other families with a tradition of giving back at the holidays.

“We have a lot of the same volunteers year after year,” Lacklen says. “It’s part of their holiday tradition, a way people can share every year. They give up their Thanksgiving mornings to do it.”

And some individuals and families who are the recipients of the meals from Community Tables return in future years as volunteers to prepare the meals for other people in need.

Conrad says Community Tables plans to grow and serve more people by partnering with other churches and organizations that want to serve Thanksgiving dinner to families and individuals at their facilities, particularly in East Greensboro, Southeast Greensboro and predominantly minority neighborhoods.

Providing dignity, building community

For many years, volunteers and partner agencies were responsible for raising the funds Community Tables needed to buy food for the Thanksgiving dinner it prepares. Some years, especially in tough economic times, raising money was a particular challenge, but donors in the community always came through.

In recent years, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro has handled fundraising for Community Tables, allowing its volunteers and partner agencies to focus on preparing, serving and delivering the meals.

Donors may support the Thanksgiving dinner through a contribution to the Thanksgiving/Holiday Fund, and also may designate that some or all of their gift support the Christmas dinner.

A donation of $5 allows a hungry person in the community to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

Community Tables “makes our community stronger,” Lacklen says. “There are a lot of kids who don’t get meals. We’re trying to provide meals in a lot of different venues so we reach as many people as possible.”

Conrad says that in addition to providing a holiday dinner for people in need, Community Tables gives them a sense of promise.

“You always have to have hope,” he says. “Things like this just give people hope, that there is a brighter tomorrow.”