Helping kids fly to get medical treatment

By Todd Cohen

MORRISVILLE, N.C. — In the last 10 years, children who were seriously ill or injured but faced hurdles getting to medical facilities have received 1,500 free flights, thanks to Children’s Flight of Hope, a nonprofit in Morrisville.

“Travel to treatment is often an overlooked component of getting children the care they need,” says Staci Barfield, the group’s executive director. “Insurance doesn’t pay for   the travel of the children we serve. If we didn’t provide these flights, they’d forego or postpone treatment until their families could raise the money, which could be too late.”

Formed in 1991 by Al Wethington, a Durham pilot and businessman, Children’s Flight of Hope operates with a full-time staff of four people and an annual budget of $821,000, plus in-kind support valued at about $500,000, mainly in the form of flights that companies and American Airlines donate.

It also counts on 150 active volunteers who mainly work on three annual events that net a total of about $360,000. The group gets the rest of its funds from individuals and corporations, plus some grant support.

It pays for most of its flights. This year, through October, it spent $154,000 on commercial flights and $87,000 on private flights.

Through November 11, it had provided 408 flights for 127 families, and expects to have provided 500 flights by the end of the year.

Until this past April, flights had been limited to children living or needing to get to medical facilities east of the Mississippi River. The biggest share of the children are traveling to or from destinations in North Carolina.

And thanks to a one-year partnership it formed in April with American Airlines, American now is letting the nonprofit use for its own clients two million miles of flights donated to the airline. In return, Children’s Flight of Hope will handle eight million miles of charity flights American routes to Children’s Flight of Hope.

The nonprofit developed that partnership in the wake of $151,000 in seed money it received in 2015 from the CAPCommunity Foundation, the charitable arm of CAPTRUST Financial Advisers in Raleigh, to expand its geographic reach.

Now, Children’s Flight of Hope is considering the creation of hubs in 10 other markets throughout U.S., plus the Triad and Charlotte, Barfield says.

Developing the hubs will depend on interest in each market among local volunteers, funders and companies, she says.

The nonprofit also continues to focus on meeting the needs of North Carolina children. Seeing that children from the coastal area were not participating, the staff approached The Eshelman Foundation in Wilmington, which provided a $15,000 grant to meet the travel needs of children from the three counties the Foundation serves.

Since 2014, Children’s Flight of Hope also has raised about $400,000 through a campaign known as “Join Our Crew” that focuses on recruiting “recurring” donors who make a commitment to make an annual gift for a number of years.

Three donors each have made pledges to give $20,000 a year for five years.

The nonprofit mainly flies children to pediatric speciality centers for a broad range of illnesses, including rare “orphan” diseases for which research and treatment are not supported by institutional programs or organizations.

“The treatments we’re sending them to,” Barfield says, “are going to save, prolong or dramatically improve the quality of their lives.”

Biddle Foundation grants celebrate 60 years of impact

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

DURHAM, N.C. — On September 14, 1956, when Mary Duke Biddle established her philanthropic foundation, inspiring the foundation’s mission were lessons she had learned growing up in a family that believed in supporting causes and communities it cared about.

So she decided her new philanthropy would focus on making modest gifts that could multiply over time, providing access to education, enriching lives and communities through music and the arts, lifting up impoverished people through churches and congregations, and providing critical aid to communities.

In its first 60 years, The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has awarded nearly $43 million to those causes in North Carolina, where Mrs. Biddle was born and raised, and in New York City, where she lived for 20 years as an adult before returning to Durham.

Now, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Foundation has awarded five special grants totaling $125,000 to support efforts in North Carolina and New York City to boost the arts and arts education, to use orchestral training to equip more underserved kids to thrive, and to prepare more at-risk kids to succeed in school and life.

“The philanthropic legacy of Mary Duke Biddle continues to advance the arts and improve the lives of youth, particularly those who are less advantaged, in the communities she loved,” says Mimi O’Brien, executive director of the Foundation.

Making an impact

The five special grants — $25,000 each to the Durham Arts Council, Kidznotes and StudentU, all in Durham; the Asheville Art Museum; and UpBeat NYC in the South Bronx — are designed to have a bigger impact on individual organizations and the people they serve. These awards are made in addition to the Foundation’s regular annual giving, including approximately 40 grants of $5,000 each in response to requests from nonprofits in North Carolina and New York City.

“Arts and youth education remain critical, ongoing needs in our community,” O’Brien says. “These special grants represent an investment to help innovative nonprofits make an even bigger difference expanding the impact of the arts and creating opportunities for young people to succeed.”

With the help of the five grants:

* Durham Arts Council will develop an online arts directory and continue to invest in

career development for emerging artists, underscoring Durham’s growing reputation as a hub for the arts.

* Kidznotes will use orchestral training to equip more underserved students to succeed in school and life, continue its expansion into economically-distressed Southeast Raleigh, and consider expanding to other parts of the Triangle region.

* StudentU will prepare more kids in Durham to graduate from high school, enroll in college and graduate, and then find ways to help their peers succeed in school and life.

* The Asheville Art Museum will provide access to arts education and activities to more underserved children in Asheville, Buncombe County and three rural counties in Western North Carolina.

* UpBeat NYC will provide free music training and orchestral instruction to more at- risk children in the South Bronx, along with hope for the future and a better chance to succeed in school and life.

Philanthropic legacy

Mary Duke Biddle, the daughter of Benjamin Newton Duke and granddaughter of Washington Duke, attended public schools in Durham, and in 1907 graduated from Trinity College, now Duke University.

Her father and uncle, James B. Duke, using wealth generated from tobacco, textile and electric power industries they developed in North Carolina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, gave generously to their community and became known for their philanthropy. Both were benefactors of Durham’s Trinity College, and in 1924, through the newly chartered Duke Endowment, the college was named Duke University in honor of their father.

In establishing her own Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle designated that half the grant funding would go to Duke University, with the rest going to non-profit organizations that support a variety of causes in North Carolina and New York.

Mary Duke Biddle died in 1960 at age 73. For many years, the Foundation was led by her daughter, the late Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, and her husband, the late James H. Semans, M.D.

“The Biddle Foundation continues its legacy of making the communities we serve Jbetter places to live and work,” says Jon Zeljo, chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees and great-grandson of Mary Duke Biddle. “We invest in programs that expand opportunities for everyone, connect and inspire diverse populations, and give people in need tools and hope for the future.”

Model for future funding

Including grants to organizations such as Duke University that it has funded for many years through long-standing relationships, the Foundation typically makes nearly $1 million in grants a year.

With an endowment of about $30 million, the Foundation continues to focus its funding on the arts and youth education, particularly in collaborative efforts that serve less advantaged populations.

The Foundation is using its 60th anniversary to examine how its grantmaking practices and programs can be more impactful to the organizations and causes it supports.

In addition to support for Duke and to grants it makes in response to applications, organizations the Foundation funds through long-standing relationships include, among others, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts; Durham Arts Council; American Dance Festival; Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle; and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Third-party-warehousing firms fight world hunger

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Stop Hunger Now.]

Third-party-logistics (3PL) providers are piloting an innovative warehousing and corporate-social-responsibility partnership with an international relief agency to help address the global hunger epidemic.

3PL providers in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh have taken on warehouse functions that Stop Hunger Now previously handled, giving the Raleigh, N.C.-based relief agency’s local staff in those cities more time to develop partnerships with local organizations and volunteers that will get more food to hungry people throughout the world.

“It is our way of giving back,” says Tim Siddiq, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Merchandise Warehouse. “We see logistics being key to ending hunger worldwide. And being in the logistics business, it made sense to us to put together a network of public warehouses that would donate space.”

Global epidemic

Throughout the world, 795 million people do not have enough to eat. Every night, one in nine people on the planet goes to bed hungry.

To help address that crisis, Stop Hunger Now has distributed over 200 million meals to feed hungry people in 51 countries since it launched its meal-packaging program in December 2005.

The meals were packaged by 650,000 volunteers from corporations, churches, schools and civic groups at 8,387 meal-packaging events in 19 U.S. cities in which Stop Hunger Now operates meal-packaging locations, and at locations in South Africa, Malaysia, the Philippines, Italy and India.

And warehousing is central to that effort.

How meal-packaging works

A meal-packaging event is a volunteer-based, assembly-line production process that typically is hosted by a local organization that provides volunteers and partners with Stop Hunger Now through a mobile operation that delivers ingredients and supplies.

In just under two hours, a group of 50 volunteers can package 10,000 nutrient-rich meals for the undernourished globally. The assembly process combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix that includes 23 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packages.

During the event, volunteers work in teams. They set up the packaging stations and equipment. At the first station in the assembly line, volunteers mix four meal ingredients through a funnel into a specially designed bag. The bag then is carried to the next station, where it is weighed and heat-sealed shut. The sealed bag is brought to the next station, where bags are counted and packaged into boxes that are labeled to indicate the package date and “best-used-by” date of the meals. Then the volunteers take down the packaging stations and equipment.

At the end of the event, Stop Hunger Now transports the packaged meals back to its warehouse to await shipment abroad. It distributes meals through feeding programs operated by partner organizations in developing countries that promote education, encourage children to attend school, improve students’ health and nutrition, address gender inequalities, stimulate economic growth, and fight child labor, and are part of the movement to address global issues.

Warehousing to end hunger

In each community in which it operates, Stop Hunger Now leases warehouse space totaling 5,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet, depending on the size of the market.

Through those leases, which typically run for two years to five years, Stop Hunger Now maintains complete control of the operations.

At each warehouse space it leases, Stop Hunger Now receives the raw materials it needs for meal-packaging events, including the ingredients for each meal, plastic bags in which the meals are packaged, boxes in which packaged meals are stored, and packaging equipment that includes rubber bins, funnels, scoops and cups.

Stop Hunger Now either rents or owns a truck in each market. At its leased warehouse space, its staff loads the truck with materials needed for a meal-packaging event, and drives the truck to the site of the event.

Volunteers unload the truck and then, after the event, load the truck with the packaged meals. Staff drive the truck back to the warehouse, and unload the meals at the warehouse, where they remain until they are shipped overseas.

At each warehouse, Stop Hunger Now needs to accumulate 285,120 packaged meals – enough for the 20 pallets to fill a shipping container – before it makes a shipment overseas.

And its costs are fixed: It must pay the cost of each of its monthly leases whether it packages 1,000 meals or one million meals at a particular location.

Third-party-logistics model

Partnering with Merchandise Warehouse and Catch-Up Logistics in Pittsburgh, Stop Hunger Now is testing a new model for its warehouse operations.

In Indianapolis, where Merchandise Warehouse is based and operates both a 400,000-square-foot warehouse and a 175,000-squarefoot warehouse, the company has taken on responsibility for all of Stop Hunger Now’s warehousing needs.

It receives the raw materials and packaging materials Stop Hunger Now needs, stores them in one of its warehouses, maintains the inventory of raw materials and packaging materials in its computer system, pulls ingredients and packaging materials when a Stop Hunger Now partner is hosting a meal-packaging event, loads the Stop Hunger Now truck for the event, unloads the truck after the event, maintains the inventory of packaged meals, and loads containers for meals to be shipped overseas.

While many third-party-warehouse providers include transportation in their services, Stop Hunger Now wants to control its own transportation to and from packaging events. Its business model depends on volunteers to load and unload its trucks at meal packaging events, and the window of opportunity for doing that is about 20 minutes.

In contrast, the estimated period of time during which many transportation providers say they will deliver a truck to a meal-packaging site is much longer, making it impractical for Stop Hunger Now to depend on transportation providers for transporting materials to the packaging sites. Merchandise Warehouse does not include transportation in its services.

Cost savings

The third-party model is expected to reduce the warehousing duties for Stop Hunger Now’s local staff, giving them more time to develop new partnerships that will package more meals for people in need throughout the world.

“This new model enables our staff to focus on what we do best – facilitating great meal-packaging events for volunteers and distributing meals effectively to end hunger, while letting experts handle the logistics, which are not our core competency,” says Rod Brooks, president and CEO of Stop Hunger Now.

Mickey Horner, director of expansion and program innovation for Stop Hunger Now, says that moving to the new 3PL model could save the organization as much as half its operating costs, allowing the organization to provide more aid, increase monitoring and evaluation, and invest in sustainable community-development projects in developing countries.

One key to those savings will be the shift from a fixed-cost warehouse model to a variable-cost model. So Stop Hunger Now will pay for warehouse space and labor only when it actually is storing inventory in the warehouse.

The third-party model also is expected to reduce by 25 percent to 35 percent the time that local Stop Hunger Now staff spend on warehousing functions.

“By partnering with warehousing and logistics experts, we can spend more time developing more partnerships to package more meals for people in need,” Horner says.

Benefits of third-party model

For Siddiq at Merchandise Warehouse, partnering with Stop Hunger Now was an easy decision.

“Everybody has the food we need,” says Siddiq, whose father was Afghan and who was born and lived in the country until he was seven years old. “It’s something we take for granted. I grew up in Afghanistan. I saw hunger first-hand as a kid.”

The partnership with Stop Hunger Now also represents a way for Merchandise Warehouse to be a responsible corporate citizen, says Siddiq, whose maternal grandfather founded the privately held company in 1951.

Because it is an accredited food-handling warehouse with third-party inspection and accreditation, Merchandise Warehouse also provides food-grade services that meet or exceed regulation and compliance requirements of governing bodies to operate a food warehouse, says Scott Whiting, vice president and general manager for Merchandise Warehouse.

“Those services are not always easily achievable under a lease,” he says. “That’s another level of service Stop Hunger Now does not have to worry about.”

Merchandise Warehouse also has agreed to contribute up to $50,000 in in-kind services to Stop Hunger Now, including office space in its warehouse for Stop Hunger Now’s local employee, and has allowed Stop Hunger Now to install a sanitation system in its warehouse. The system includes a three-bay sink and a dishwasher Stop Hunger Now can use to clean meal-packaging equipment after it is returned to the warehouse from meal-packaging events.

Future of third-party model

Based on a logistical network analysis of its third-party warehouse model that Stop Hunger Now is developing with consultants, it will decide whether to shift to that model in other U.S. communities in which it operates when its warehouse leases in those communities expire.

It also will consider the third-party model when it expands to new communities. The Stop Hunger Now board of directors, for example, has approved expansion to the New York metro area.

“Our long-term goal is to have greater efficiency in logistics, and we’ll need additional 3PL partners to make that happen,” Horner says.

Whiting says Merchandise Warehouse aims to work with its peers in other cities to build a network of third-party operators “to be able to ship food to all over the world where it’s needed.”

Nonprofit enlists students to fight violence

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the 2013-14 school year, while the number of reportable acts of crime and violence in North Carolina schools fell 4.7 percent to 11,608, the number of assaults on school personnel by students grew 14.4 percent to 1,333, and the number of sexual assaults grew 38.8 percent to 179, according to state data.

From 2004 to 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 2,814 North Carolina residents ages 10 to 24 died as a result of violence, including 1,252 deaths from suicide.

And 20 percent to 30 percent of U.S. students say they have been bullied at school, while 70 percent of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.

Working to prevent violence by raising awareness among students, helping them manage conflicts, and engaging them in service projects in their schools and communities is the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere, or SAVE, a Raleigh-based nonprofit.

“School violence has become more accepted in society,” says Carleen Wray, executive director of SAVE. “We are desensitized to it. Students are growing up with bullying.”

Starting with a group that students at West Charlotte High School created in 1989 after the death of a student who was trying to break up a fight at an off-campus party, SAVE now has established 2,140 chapters in 48 states and seven countries.

SAVE operates with an annual budget of $250,000, two full-time employees and 75 volunteers. It gets 75 percent of its funds from contributions, and the rest from $100 annual dues that chapters pay, the sale of educational materials and items, in-kind support, and an annual summit that in March attracted 400 people from eight states.

SAVE chapters, which operate at elementary, middle and high schools, and at community organizations, offer a range of programs.

At Garner High School, with part of a $75,000 grant to SAVE from AllState Insurance to promote safe-driving efforts at 20 North Carolina chapters, faculty adviser Vickie Szarek is working with students to raise awareness about auto accidents, which are the number one cause of death among teens.

At Chapel Hill High School, SAVE students painted over a graffiti-filled wall and cleaned up garbage in the area to create a “Peace Garden.”

And at Cuthbertson High School in Waxaw just southeast of Charlotte, students hold an annual drive to collect teddy bears they distribute to children at a domestic-violence shelter, where the students read stories to the children.

SAVE formerly was a program of the state Center for the Prevention of School Violence, which in 1994 held 12 town hall meetings throughout the state to try to find a model it could help replicate in schools and community groups.

The Center adopted the SAVE model from West Charlotte High School after learning about it at a town hall meeting. It became a separate nonprofit in 2001, when it also received a five-year grant of $350,000 a year from Chevrolet that helped it add at least 200 chapters a year.

Bullying, physical assaults, drug deals and other violence and crimes have “become a norm” in elementary, middle and high schools, Wray says.

And while metal detectors may help improve the security of schools, she says, understanding the family, mental and other issues that students bring with them to school is critical to prevent violence.

“We really try to reach students and give them the life skills and education and knowledge to create safe environments for themselves in their school and their community,” she says.

To help do that, SAVE focuses on relationships among students and with teachers and administrators.

Bullies bully, for example, because of an “imbalance of power,” Wray says.

“You aren’t a victim unless it’s continued and repeating,” she says. “If one other students steps up for a student being targeted, bullying is more likely to stop.”

A key to preventing youth and school violence is to “talk to kids,” Wray says. “They have wonderful ideas, they know what’s going on in the school and community, and they truly want to make a difference and be part of the solution.”

Make-A-Wish sees rising demand for wishes

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the fiscal year that ended August 31, Make-A-Wish of Eastern North Carolina granted 190 wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

That total was up 10 percent from the previous year and represented the most wishes the chapter has granted since it was formed in 1986.

To help fulfill those wishes, the chapter raised $2 million in cash and $600,000 in in-kind contributions, up 18 percent from the previous year and another all-time high.

Still, the chapter cannot keep up with demand.

“The need has never been greater,” says Kristen Mercer Johnson, president and CEO of the chapter.

Serving 49 of North Carolina’s counties and operating with a staff of 12 people, the chapter this year expects to grant 200 wishes, and will hold a series of events to raise money to try to keep up with rising demand.

Children typically are referred to Make-A-Wish by a doctor, social worker or parent.

A medical team of advisers works with the child’s doctor to confirm the child’s life is in jeopardy as a result of a condition that is life-threatening, progressive, degenerative or malignant.

The chapter’s wish-delivery team then assigns two volunteers to the child. They meet the family and child and ask the child for his or her “one true wish.”

A staff member then works to assemble the elements, such as travel or donated services or products, needed to fulfill the wish.

Trips to Disney World account for nearly half the wishes the chapter grants, for example, while travel is required for granting 83 percent of wishes, including those to Disney World.

Many children also want to meet a celebrity, take a trip, or get a gift such as a computer. Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina counts on individual giving for 32 percent of its budget; corporate giving, special events and grants for 33 percent; events held by others for 30 percent; and grants from Make-A-Wish America for 4 percent.

Special events are critical for generating revenue, Johnson says.

The chapter expects to attract 800 people and net $220,000 at its Wish Ball on May 17 at the Raleigh Convention Center, up from 400 people and $164,000 last year.

It expects 500 people, up from 350 last year, at “Wine, Women and Shoes,” a fashion and vendor fair it will hold on April 3 at the Burney Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

And in January it kicked off “Women Inspiring Strength and Hope,” or W.I.S.H., a two-month campaign in which 12 women have agreed to raise $7,500 each.

The effort will culminate March 28 with a luncheon at The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary that is expected to attract over 200 women.

The chapter also will hold a “Walk for Wishes” in September.

Donated travel miles represent a key need, Johnson says.

The chapter buys about 600 airline tickets a year for children and family members that represent the equivalent of over 29 million airline miles.

In its most recent fiscal year, the chapter spent $161,500 on air travel, or 22 percent of total expenses for granting wishes.

The chapter always is looking for in-kind support, including travel miles, which do not expire if they are donated to a nonprofit, Johnson says.

And granted wishes can make a difference in the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions, and their families, she says.

A three-year study by Make-A-Wish America found that treatments for children who get wishes are more effective “because they have a positive outlook,” and that the wish process “repairs and strengthens” families, Johnson says.

“Our vision is to continue to grant more wishes, year after year,” she says, “and continue to have that fundraising amount go up.”

Farm to serve kids and adults with autism

By Todd Cohen

CARY, N.C. — Erin O’Loughlin was “tapped out and exhausted and juggling life.”

She also was frustrated.

It was December 2011, and O’Loughlin was having a tough time finding programs appropriate for her severely autistic son, Marcus, then 7, during the three-week “track-out” periods when Middle Creek Elementary School in Apex was not open for classes.

“He has no options when he’s tracked out,” she says. “There are options for kids with no special needs, but not for kids with special needs.”

Her frustration, along with a chance suggestion from a parent of an autistic adult, sparked O’Loughlin’s idea for a farm that would provide residential facilities for adults with autism, along with a broad range of programs for adults and children with autism.

3 Irish Jewels Farm, which would be the first of its kind in Wake County and only one of about 10 farm communities throughout the U.S. for people with autism, aims to help address growing demand for autism programs.

One in 88 children in the U.S. have autism, up from about three in 10,000 children who were diagnosed with the disorder in 1975, the year she was born, O’Loughlin says.

Yet despite that surge, she says, programs and funding for people with autism are limited.

The waiting list for federal funding through a Medicaid program that waives income restrictions for people with special needs, for example, can be as long as eight or nine years, she says.

O’Loughlin, who has held marketing and fundraising jobs at nonprofits, is working full-time to develop plans, partnerships and support for her new nonprofit.

She has invested $20,000 of her own money, generated over $300,000 in individual contributions, in-kind donations and grants, including $250,000 over five years from the Samuel P. Mandell Foundation in Pennsylvania.

Depending on whether the land she buys already has buildings on it that could be renovated, she says, developing the facilities and programs could cost up to $3 million and take two to three years, and the farm likely would be launched in phases.

She expects to operate the farm with a $3 million annual budget and a staff in partnership with GHA Autism Supports, a nonprofit in Albermarle that will operate the residential and day programs for adults.

The farm likely would begin summer and track-out programs for children.

The next phase would include a capital campaign to raise money to build four to five one-story homes, each serving three to four residents.

Plans also call for the farm to include a local farmer’s market; on-site store for residents to sell their crafts; “community shared agriculture” for local individuals and restaurants; a range of animals; activities such as gardening, landscaping, animal care and  horse-riding therapy; and a craft center, life-skills center and recreation programs.

Services for people with autism are limited and are available for children only through age 22, yet adults “don’t go grow out of autism,” O’Loughlin says. “We have no game plan for them.”

What’s more, facilities for adults with autism are “in crisis because government keeps cutting their funding,” she says.

At the same time, families living with autism “need respite, need breaks, need to be understood and don’t need to feel guilty about it,” O’Loughlin says.

They also are “panicked,” she says. “We don’t know who’s going to take care of our children when we’re gone.”

While the farm she is developing will not begin to fill the big gap in services, she says, “I want my child and some of these other children to have a future.”

Children & Family Services Center steps up collaboration

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the Children & Family Services Center opened in 2003 in uptown Charlotte, its main goal was to provide a safe location and long-term leases at below-market rates that would allow its nonprofit tenants to reduce their overhead and use the savings to better serve the children and families that were their clients.

But because the agencies that share space in the 100,000-square-foot building at 601 E. 5th St. all focus on serving children and families, and because their close proximity to one another has created opportunities to work together more effectively, the Center over its first 10 years also has helped foster collaboration.

Now, with a new executive director, the Center is developing a plan to increase its effort to spur collaboration, both among its 10 nonprofit tenants, and among other local nonprofits that serve children and families.

“We will be looking at children-and-family-focused community issues that already have been identified, and build program collaboration around that,” says Shelley White, the Center’s long time chief financial officer who recently also was named interim executive director and then executive director. She succeeded Peggy Eagan, who was named director of social services for Mecklenburg County.

Operating with an annual budget of $2.2 million and a staff of five people, the Center houses 10 agencies that employ about 400 people and serve over 198,600 children and families a year in Mecklenburg County.

Rent from the Center’s 10 nonprofit tenants, and from three other tenants that pay market rates, covers their space plus phones and other telecommunications services.

Agencies share conference, training, kitchen and board facilities, and a center-wide computer system and common phone system that are managed by a shared chief information officer.

Compared to market rates, that rent has helped the Center’s partner agencies save a total of $11.3 million in rent, furniture and technology costs over 10 years.

And six of the nonprofit tenants have opted to pay an additional fee for shared financial and human resources services provided by a limited liability corporation that is wholly owned and controlled by the Center.

But it is the programmatic interaction of the agencies that is at the heart of the Center’s plan to serve as a hub for collaboration.

The agencies, which meet together every other month, often refer clients to one another, and the Center has helped foster four mergers among agencies it has housed, sometimes with one another, sometimes with agencies outside the Center.

It also has teamed with other community agencies to help bring to Charlotte the national Nurse-Family Partnership, which provides prenatal care for disadvantaged mothers and now is a program of Care Ring, a partner agency of the Center.

And it helped incubate Second Helping, which initially was a coffee cart that employed women returning to the community from prison and now has expanded to provide catering services.

Bob Simmons, chairman of the Center’s board and a partner at law firm McGuireWoods, says that collaboration is a natural outgrowth of the organization.

“Some of the great achievement of this building,” he says, “is that it takes a very high level of collaboration simply to create and run the project.”