Hope for teens aging out of foster care

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Adulthood can be tough for young people after they leave foster care.

Most children and teens enter foster care as a result of abuse or neglect by their biological families. They often are moved from one foster family to another, and often are disappointed by the adults in their lives and not prepared to live on their own.

That kind of childhood can take its toll: More than one in five of the 20,000 young people in the U.S. who age out of foster care each year at age 18 will become homeless, and only 58 percent will graduate from high school by age 19.

Working to prepare foster kids in Wake County for adulthood is The Hope Center at Pullen.

Formed in 2009, the nonprofit this year is serving over 100 young people ages 13 to 24, up from only 12 young people it served three years ago.

Typically referred by Wake County Child Protective Services, or by homeless shelters, those young people work with The Hope Center case workers and partner agencies to develop an individual plan that includes goals in the areas of housing, education, employment, financial management, physical and mental health, and creating a support network.

The idea is to serve as a one-stop shop that will provide young people aging out of foster care with a map they can use — and the resources and support they will need — to make a seamless transition to living on their own as adults.

Operating with an annual budget of $367,000, up from $140,000 two years ago, a staff of four people working full-time and two working part-time, and 50 active volunteers, The Hope Center partners with seven agencies that provide a broad range of support to it, the young people it serves, and its volunteer mentors who work with those young people.

Young people have the option of working not only with volunteer mentors, but also with volunteer tutors. Volunteers also provide clients of The Hope Center with transportation to paid positions the agency helps arrange for them at local nonprofits.

“We’re trying to build a support system, someone positive in their life,” says Stacy Bluth, executive director at The Hope Center.

Formed in 2009, The Hope Center grew out of Backdoor Ministries, a program of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh that provides brown-bag lunches twice a week to people who are homeless.

Initially serving chronically-homeless adults, The Hope Center in 2012 shifted its focus to providing resources and support to young people aging out of foster care.

In Wake County, where roughly 300 young people ages 13 to 18 are in foster care, 30 to 40 age out of it each year.

In 2014, The Hope Center served just over 100 young people ages 13 to 25, and worked most intensively with roughly 50 ages 18 to 25. Among that smaller group, it helped 75 percent find and keep stable housing, and helped 45 percent secure jobs. It helped 10 percent enroll in a general educational development, or GED, program, and 42 percent enroll in post-secondary education. And it helped 25 percent increase their income.

The Hope Center generates funds from United Way of the Greater Triangle, the City of Raleigh, Wake County, individual donors, foundations and special events.

It netted $30,000 at its annual Hope Gala in May, and aims to raise $20,000 at its annual Cycle for Hope bike event in October, up from $15,000 last year.

And with a grant of $123,000 from United Way, The Hope Center is teaming with six other agencies to provide support for people who have aged out of foster care and now are parents. Children of parents who were in foster care are five times as likely than other parents to end up in foster care themselves.

The Hope Center also is launching a strategic planning effort to map its own future, and possibly create a model for other communities.

“We are committed to serving as many young people in Wake County who need us,” Bluth says, “and developing a model of programs and services that meet all their needs.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 06.26.15

Winston-Salem Foundation giving $2 million for teachers

Enriching classroom experience and boosting student achievement is the focus of a $2 million investment The Winston-Salem Foundation will make over five years to support professional development for educators in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Known as the “Peer Project,” the effort will begin in the 2015-16 school year with educator grants available to staff attending the school system’s Collaborative Learning Conference in August.

Programming for all training opportunities supported by the initiative will be planned and administered by the school system.

The Foundation worked closely with the school system to develop the initiative.

Over the past 10 years, the Foundation has made 32 Community Grants to the school system totaling $462,671. In 2015 alone, it awarded 52 grants totaling $78,446 for individual educators’ professional development. In the 2014-15 school year, it also awarded nearly $1 million in college scholarships to local students.

Winner retiring from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Leslie Winner, who has served as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem since 2008, will retire in March 2016.

The Foundation has organized a committee to oversee the search for a new executive director.

Dance Project names co-directors

Lauren Trollinger Joyner, school director at Dance Project in Greensboro, and Anne Morris, program director, have been named co-directors, effective July 1.

Joyner and Morris succeed Jan Van Dyke, founder, executive director and artistic director,  who earlier this year announced she would step down in the face of declining health following a two-and-a-half-year fight with cancer. 

 Joyner and Morris, who focuses mainly on coordinating the annual North Carolina Dance Festival, will continue their current roles while expanding the scope of their leadership to guide the organization as a whole.

Van Dyke founded Dance Project in Washington, D.C., in 1974, and has led it i n North Carolina since 1989.

Cheek moves to YWCA Greensboro

Michele Cheek, case manager at Family Promise of Guilford County, has been named program director for the Emergency Family Shelter at YWCA Greensboro.

Mike Cooke, executive director at Family Promise, and Hugh Mann, chair of the homeless agency’s board, will perform the duties of case manager until a successor is named.

Campbell joins Salvation Army

Bob Campbell, former principal at Campbell Media Consulting, has joined The Salvation Army of Winston-Salem as director of marketing and public relations.

High Point United Way expands summer feeding program

United Way of Greater High Point will work with two new groups to provide summer meals for kids through its BackPack program.

United Way will provide meals for 35 children participating in a free, six-week summer camp at the Washington Street Enrichment Program, and will provide meals for 30 kids at its Carson Stout location. 

Including its partnership with the Housing Authority of the City of High Point, United Way this summer will provide over 4,800 meals through its BackPack program to kids who otherwise might go hungry over the weekends.

Methodist Home raises $40,000

Friends of Methodist Home for Children raised $40,000 at an event May 29 in Greenville.

High Point Boys & Girls Clubs gets $5,000

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater High Point received a $5,000 grant from Bank of America Foundation to fund Teens With a Plan, a program to recruit and retain Club members ages 12 to 19 and engage them in activities that will lead to graduation from high school, with a plan that includes going to college, the armed forces, or a vocational career.

Nussbaum Center for host ‘Future CEO’ program

The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship in Greensboro this summer will host the inaugural Future CEO program for local High School Students.

The Future CEO program, to begin June 30, is a partnership among the Nussbaum Center , City of Greensboro Human Relations Commission, Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina, and Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department.

Fourteen students will focus on leadership skills, budgeting, and marketing and business strategies, and will meet Triad entrepreneurs.

Wells Fargo sponsors Ramp-A-Thon

Wells Fargo is sponsoring Ramp-A-Thon, an annual project of Community Housing Solutions in Greensboro in partnership with volunteers from Catholic HEART WorkCamp to build accessible ramps for low-income and disabled homeowners in Guilford County.

Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk  scheduled for October 18

The 37th annual Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk will be held October 18 in Independence Park, with 4,000 walkers expected to take part.

Since 1978, the event has raised nearly $8 million, including $2 million to support Crisis Assistance Ministry, Loaves & Fishes, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.  

Economic Developers Association elects officers, board members

Ernest C. Pearson, a lawyer at Nexsen Pruet and a former assistance secretary in the N.C. Department of Commerce, has been elected president of the North Carolina Economic Developers Association, and Andrew Tate, president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, has been elected vice president.

The board has elected three new members, including Maureen Little, association vice president for  customized training in the North Carolina Community College System; John Nelms, development manager for Duke Energy; and Paul Peralta, senior vice president for ECS Carolinas.

North Carolina Community Foundation names two board members

North Carolina Community Foundation (NCCF) is pleased to announce the appointment of two new directors to the statewide board, according to Linda Staunch, chair.

Alexander Graham Floyd of Granville County, founder and president of Floyd Oil, and Steven Wangerin, CEO of W.T. Humphrey in Jacksonville, have joined the board of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

Heart Association names ‘fit-friendly’ worksites

American Heart Association named 16 Winston-Salem companies and eight Guilford County companies as 2014-15 Fit-Friendly Worksite award winners.

In Winston-Salem, platinum winners were Allegacy Federal Credit Union, Cook Medical, Corning Optical Communications, Forsyth County, Inmar, and Hanesbrands. and gold winners were Avid Solutions, BB&T, Lowes Foods, MedCost, Novant Health, Salem Retirement Community, The Budd Group, Truliant Federal Credit Union, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind.

In Guilford County, gold winners were Cornerstone Health Care, High Point University, NewBridge Bank, Schneider Electric Industrial Repair Services, Shadybrook Elementary School, UnitedHealthcare, VF Corporation and VF Jeanswear Limited Partnership.

Keep your news releases clear

Your news releases should be easy to understand, short and to the point, focusing on the actual news your nonprofit is announcing.

Instead, news releases from many nonprofits are confusing, vague, long-winded and roundabout, focusing on the nonprofit and its leaders, not the news.

Write your news release for your audience, which is the news media.

News organizations are flooded every day with news releases, and must make quick decisions about which ones to use and which to throw away.

So make it easy for busy news people to see in an instant why to choose your news release.

What is the news you are announcing?

If you have a new partnership and its goal is to increase the number of local third-graders who read at grade level, for example, say precisely that, in the fewest possible words, in the subject line of your email message — “Helping kids read sooner” — and in the headline of your news release — “Helping kids read sooner focus of new partnership.”

Then, in the first paragraph of the news release, make your main point again, adding a key detail or two: “Supporting families so their children can read at grade level by third grade — a key indicator of future success in school and the workplace — is the goal of a new partnership among local schools, nonprofits and businesses.”

The difference you will make in the lives of people, and why that matters, is what is important.

In the hypothetical example of the youth-literacy initiative, the impact on children is what is important, and it matters because kids who can read at grade level by third grade are more likely to succeed in their schooling and careers.

But in the first paragraph of many news releases, nonprofits typically do not focus on what really matters.

Instead, in the first paragraph, nonprofits focus on themselves: “Ann Smith, chairman of the board of directors of Words Matter, a nonprofit that has the mission of fostering early youth literacy as a pathway to a bright future for all children, and Bill Jones, executive director of Words Matter, along with Jane Miller, superintendent of Our County Public Schools, and George Brown, chairman and CEO of Local Business Corporation, are proud to announce an exciting new collaborative initiative, ‘Reading Together: An Evidence-based Collective Impact Program of Place-based, Inclusive Community Supportive Services for Low-wealth Families to Improve Youth Literacy and Break the Cycle of Generational Poverty.”

What typically follows is a long, often disjointed explanation of the problem and its causes; statistics about the problem; citations from research studies and other efforts to address the problem; and quotes from the executive director and others touting their project as “bold,” thanking donors for funding it, characterizing their donors as “investors” who are “generous,” and predicting that the new initiative will “move the needle” on a big community problem — but not providing details of the program, explaining how it actually will work and why it will make a difference, and quantifying its costs and the impact it will have.

This example clearly is exaggerated, but not by much.

Far too many nonprofits simply do not know how to write a news release.

In deciding whether to run a story, the news media do not care that it is your board chair and executive director who are announcing a program, or what the jargon-filled name of your program is, or which research data you can cite, or whether you are thrilled about your new program and grateful for your donors, or whether you believe you are innovative, or whether you are “bringing new voices and messengers to the table,” “leveraging public-private” resources, and creating a “breakthrough” model for social change.

What the news editors who will decide whether to run your news want to know is why their readers should care about your news.

So instead of writing your news releases for yourselves and your own leaders, and using the mind-numbing jargon, clever catchphrases, philanthropically-correct buzzwords, overstated self-praise, and impenetrable research and data your staff and peers favor when you talk to one another, just say what you are doing and what difference it will make in your community, use plain words that anyone can understand, use as few words as possible, and cite only research and data — if any — that will underscore or illustrate the problem you are addressing and the impact you expect to have.

Sell your story to the news media by making it easy for them to understand why your news matters and why their audience should care. Keep it clear and simple.

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.

Swimming to fight cancer

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When he was a ninth-grader at Grimsley High School in Greensboro and a member of its swim team, John Dewey was diagnosed with melanoma. He underwent treatment, and then resumed swimming his sophomore year. His junior year, he won the state championship in the 100-yard freestyle.

But Dewey’s cancer returned his senior year. Although he was not able to swim, he assisted the team and was offered a full scholarship at North Carolina State University by its swimming coach. Dewey died in 1970, the spring of his senior year at Grimsley.

In 1973, Bob Sawyer, the long-time swimming coach at Grimsley and at the Greensboro Swimming Association launched a citywide swim event in memory of Dewey to raise money for cancer research. The event raised $3,000.

Since 1988, the effort has been known as “Swim for Cancer” and has raised a total of more than $2.5 million for the American Cancer Society. It is the charity’s longest-running fundraising campaign and the largest fundraising swim event in the U.S.

To raise money, members of the 23 local clubs in the Greensboro Swimming Association swim laps and participate in activities ranging from car washes and lemonade stands to babysitting and parties.

The annual effort culminates each year at a “City Meet” that includes swimmers, coaches, volunteers and representatives from the American Cancer Society.

This year’s meet was held July 9, 10 and 11 at the Greensboro Aquatics Center.

In June, the Blue Dolphins swim team at Greensboro Country Club aims to raise $50,000 during its 27th annual Swim for Cancer”event, bringing the total it will have raised to over $1 million and making it the first swim team in the U.S. to raise that amount for the American Cancer Society.

To support the swim team and help meet the goal, the Greensboro Country Club has undertaken club-wide programs to get its entire membership involved.

Special fundraising activities at the Club include a golf tournament, tennis event, fitness event, “Breakfast Fighting Cancer” and a family evening of food and entertainment.

Nonprofit news roundup, 06.19.15

Nonprofits fear impact of Senate tax plan

Charities, churches, hospitals, and colleges and universities say the North Carolina Senate plan to slash sales-tax refunds to nonprofits and cap deductions for donations would reduce services and charitable giving.

The Senate budget would reduce to $1 million by 2020 — from $45 million currently — the refunds on state and local sales taxes that charities can claim each year, and would let nonprofits apply for refunds only once a year, compared to twice a year currently.

The plan also would cap charitable deductions at $20,000.

Leaders of the North Carolina House told reporters they did not expect to support the Senate proposals.

Merritt heads Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk

Shay Merritt, former community development coordinator for Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina in Charlotte, has been named executive director of Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk.

Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk has given $22,000 each to Crisis Assistance Ministry.  Crisis Assistance Ministry, Loaves & Fishes, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina from funds it raised last October at its 2014 Walk.

Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk is the largest CROP walk in the country in both the number of walkers and funds raised.

Canada named executive director at NCCJ

Ivan Canada, interim executive director and former senior director of NCCJ, the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad, has been named executive director. He previously was co-director of NCCJ’s ANYTOWN youth-leadership program.

THRIVE Fund giving $3.1 million

The THRIVE Fund, administered by Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte,  will give over $3.1 million in grants, some over multiple years, to eight local arts organizations.

The grants are the first to be made by the Fund, established in 2013 under the leadership of Hugh McColl, former chairman and CEO of Bank of America, to provide financial stability for Charlotte’s cultural sector.

Yadkin County hospice gets $1 million

Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care in Yadkinville has received $1 million from the State Employees Credit Union, bringing it past the half-way mark in a capital campaign to raise $2.5 million to build the first hospice home in Yadkin County.

Girl Scouts launching mobile program

Raleigh-based Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines is launching a “Mobile Program Vehicle” to deliver Girls Scouts programs to rural communities.

Providing funding for the van, which has room for 12 Girls Scouts and is equipped with counters, seats, electrical outlets for computers and equipment, and a mounted monitor, were the Frank K. Webb Charitable Trust, BB&T, WakeMed Health & Hospitals, and Duke Energy.

Salemtowne Retirement Community hires CEO

Mark A. Steele, president and general manager of China operations for Cornerstone Affiliates International, a subsidiary of American Baptist Homes of the West in Pleasanton, CA, has been named president and CEO of Salemtowne Retirement Community in Winston-Salem.

Steele, who starts his new job August 10,  succeeds Joe Lydon, who announced in 2014 he planned to retire this year.

Passage Home gets challenge from Stewards Fund

Passage Home in Raleigh aims to raise $75,000 by June 30 in partnership to secure a $75,000 challenge grant from the Stewards Fund.

Passage Home serves over 1,000 families and low-income individuals.

United Way, Housing Authority team up to feed kids

Eighty children living in Daniel Brooks Homes, J.C. Morgan Courts, and Juanita Hills will get free lunches Mondays through Thursdays this summer, thanks to a partnership of  United Way of Greater High Point and the Housing Authority of the City of High Point.

For over five years, United Way has provided food for students on the weekends through its BackPack program.

Now, its BackPack program is joining the Housing Authority’s partnership with the Guilford County Schools Summer Food Program to provide lunches during the summer.

The United Way BackPack program is supported by grants, United Way campaign designations, and private donations.

Other community partners include Out of the Garden Project, Carolina Container, Steelecase, and The Crossing Church.

Salvation Army, Food Bank serving lunch for children

The Salvation Army of High Point is partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina to provide a free lunch throughout the summer for children and teens in low-income areas. Every day, staff and volunteers from The Salvation Army will serve meals in the Family Life center at 301 West Green Drive.

High Point United Way awards venture grants

United Way of Greater High Point awarded a total of $32,500 in “venture” grants to eight agencies to address emerging or unmet needs.

Six times in the past nine years, United Way now has awarded a total of  over $300,000 to nearly 60 agencies for new initiatives and one-time capital items.

Recipients of this years venture grants, which range from $2,000 to $5,750, are Communities in Schools of High Point; Community Outreach of Archdale/Trinity; Go Out for a Run; Greater High Point Food Alliance; Habitat for Humanity of High Point, Archdale and Trinity; Helping Hands Ministry; Mary’s House; and Out of the Garden Project.

Complaint says Walmart Foundation pushes retailer’s expansion

A complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by over a dozen community groups claims the Walmart Foundation violated its tax-exempt status by using charitable funds to put the retailer’s entrance into Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported.

The groups allege the company completely controls the foundation, which it alleges “appears to target its donations and influence its grantees primarily to assist Walmart to achieve those expansion goals, ultimately providing Walmart more than an incidental benefit,” and that the Walmart Foundation’s activities are impermissible under the Internal Revenue Code.

Davidson County Hospice to benefit from motorcycle event

Hospice of Davidson County will benefit from he 8th Annual Hospice of Davidson County “Ride for Angels” motorcycle benefit on July 18.

The event, which will begin at Denton FarmPark at 1072 Cranford Rd. in Denton, has raised over $100,000 since began in 2007, including nearly $22,000 last year.

Wells Fargo invests in early literacy

Wells Fargo is giving $10,000 to the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation to support its work to advance policies and practices that prepare children for third-grade reading proficiency.

Compass Center honored by Chamber of Commerce

Compass Center for Women and Families in Chapel Hill has been named 2015 Nonprofit of the Year” by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Wise Guys director honored

Rick Brown, director of the Wise Guys program at Children’s Home Society in Greensboro, has received the 2015 Impact Award by SHIFT NC, which honors an individual, organization, or collaboration that has made a significant difference in adolescent pregnancy prevention and sexual health.

Heart Association getting $6,000

The Eastern North Carolina office of the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate of the American Heart Association has received a donation of $5,000 from South River Electric Membership Corp., and a pledge of $1,000 from The Florence Rogers Charitable Trust, both in Fayetteville.

Father’s Day event to benefit Make-A-Wish

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina will receive all proceeds from the third Father’s Day 5K to be hosted by Maggiano’s Little Italy on June 21. Sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports Carrboro/Durham, the event will be held at The Streets at Southpoint in Durham and begin at 8:30 a.m.

SOLitude pitches in on lake cleanup

North Carolina employees of Virginia-based SOLitude Lake Management participated in the annual spring Clean-Up-A-Thon at Jordan Lake, working to remove 300 bags of trash and debris and 140 tires, equaling 9,080 pounds, from the shoreline and woods surrounding the lake, and helping the Haw River Assembly collect its 10,000th bag of trash since the cleanup events began in 2009. 

Prevention Partners honors Hutchinson

Sig Hutchinson a member of the board of directors of Prevention Partners in Chapel Hill, has received the organization’s POWER Award, recognizing outstanding leadership for prevention from a board member or community collaborator.

ArtsGreensboro honores Hyers

ArtsGreensboro presented the Betty Cone Medal of Arts to the family of Stephen D. Hyers, former Managing Director of Greensboro City Arts Drama Center.

Hyers died in October 2014 after an 18-year battle with a brain tumor.

SAFEchild names 13 new board members

The board of directors SAFEchild in Raleigh has elected 13 new board members. The include Megan Daniels of Nationwide; Kelly Miller of Kelly Miller Designs; Frank Yang of WakeMed; Matt Ferraguto of Eckel & Vaughan; Stacy Dunn of Zift Solutions; Lauren Smith of 18 Seaboard; Jason Rapuano of Paragon Bank; Elaine Loyack of Delta Dental of North Carolina; Shonnese Stanback of Stanback Law Firm; Chris Roberson of BB&T; Brent Townsend of Wake Radiology; Lissa Johnsen of Net@Work; and Rachel Smith of Rex Hospital.

Symphony Guild to host Home Kitchen Tour

The Symphony Guild of Charlotte will host its second annual Heart of the Home Kitchen Tour on October 17. The event will benefit the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestras, and youth music education.

Oktoberfest to benefit Alzheimers North Carolina

Alzheimers North Carolina will receive proceeds from Oktoberfest, which began as a joint effort between the Apex Sunrise and Cary MacGregor Rotary Clubs and will be held October 3 and 4 at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary.

BB&T volunteers pitch in for mother with MS

Twenty-eight volunteers and shoppers from the BB&T Greensboro Client Center worked on May 21 and 28 to renovate the yard and home of Krisi Buron, a single mother of two children who has multiple sclerosis.

Make your communications a priority

Communicating is central to the work of charities, yet too often they fail to communicate strategically or effectively, to create a communications plan that guides and informs their daily work, or to make communications integral to the way they address challenges and seize opportunities.

The CEOs and boards of charities tend to focus on operations, programs and fundraising, and treat communications as a separate, marginal function.

That’s a big mistake. A charity’s success depends on communications that are effective and strategic.

The success of your relationships with your donors and funders, your volunteers, your partners and your clients depends on the stories you tell about your charity, the way you tell those stories, the audiences you need to engage with those stories to achieve your goals, and the communications vehicles or channels you use to reach those audiences.

Yet many nonprofits do not invest the time and effort needed to integrate communications into the way they think, plan and work.

They may not believe communications matter. They may not feel confident about their communication skills. They may treat communications as a minor function compared to the programmatic and fundraising work they do. They simply may not want to have to deal with communications because telling stories effectively and strategically is hard work.

Whatever the reason, charities should make their communications a priority and invest the time and attention required to create and deliver the messages that will show the people they count on why they should support and get involved with their organization.

The good news is it’s never too late to start doing a better job telling stories about about the good work you do and why it matters.

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.