The Art of Giving – Gifts of compassion make lasting impressions

 

By Lisa Moore

“The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving,” once said Albert Einstein.

Giving is a deep expression of love and compassion that benefits all involved. Philanthropy encompasses any altruistic activity intended to promote good or improve the human quality of life. There is great need in Charlotte for our homeless, disabled, illiterate, troubled youth, damaged families and senior citizens.

By donating our money, goods, services and time to support a beneficial cause, we are all philanthropists regardless of our income, status or background. We all have something to offer someone in need. So make your world bigger than it’s ever been and create an impact with one loving act at a time. The return will be much greater than the investment.

Holy Angels
Unconditional love. Unlimited possibilities.

Brandon’s mother was always his lifeline. He faced significant challenges including mental retardation and physical disabilities and she nurtured him with unconditional love and compassion. Recently, at age 18, his mother unexpectedly passed away. Brandon’s father, unable to care for him at home because of his increasingly complicated needs, wanted to find a home where Brandon would receive the love and stimulation he needed to live a full and happy life.

When he visited Holy Angels he knew he had found a home for Brandon. “I had a clear picture in my mind of a place where Brandon would be safe, healthy and happy,” he says. “When I visited Holy Angels it matched that picture. I saw the quality of life that I was seeking for him and that he deserves.”

Holy Angels, located in Belmont, has served our community for over 52 years, providing a home of love and unlimited possibilities for very special and vulnerable children and adults and their families. The center, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy, offers the highest quality of life for individuals with mental retardation and physical disabilities, many of whom are medically fragile.

Holy Angels assists people from birth and up to acquire skills to function with as much self-determination and independence as possible. Services include residential programs, a child development center, special education, physical therapy and a creative arts program that offers arts and crafts, drama, music and a dance troupe.

Gaye Dimmick, Creative Arts Director, says the arts are paramount to development of self-worth and self-expression for the disabled. “It introduces them to different activities and environments so they are truly able to explore and discover, just like we do and our children do on a daily basis.” She adds that the healing arts are of great benefit as well. Residents enjoy massage therapy, Reiki, aromatherapy, ambient music and light therapy.

Holy Angels offers horticultural therapy and has a greenhouse and new organic garden on site, giving residents the opportunity to “take care” of another living thing. “Most of our residents are helped by our staff for eating, hygiene and moving, so being able to care for something else is highly important to them,” says Dimmick.

According to Jennifer Sheely, Vice President of the Holy Angels Foundation, 81% of its funding comes from state and federal funding sources, but monetary donations are crucial. “As our residents’ needs are becoming increasingly complicated and our funding is being cut, we must raise more funds to ensure that our programs and services remain innovative and of high quality,” she states.

Volunteers are also needed in all areas and Sheely says they are often inspired by the courage of the residents. “The most valuable return on investment for our volunteers is the fun and happiness of our residents,” she claims. “Although there are sad times at Holy Angels, it is ultimately a place of joy, love and peace. The homes resonate with good times and laughter!”

The Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte
Making the golden years more golden

Senior citizens are one of our greatest treasures. They have raised children, worked a lifetime and learned from the ebb and flow of life. And they have more to offer than ever: wisdom, patience and experience.

The Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte is a pivotal senior organization that uses the time and talent of senior volunteers to help other, less independent seniors through education, assistance and understanding. Executive Director Linda Pellerin says seniors are happy to volunteer, realizing that someday they may need the service themselves.

“For 20 years Martha Mitchell coordinated our Grocery Transportation Program, lining up drivers to take seniors to the supermarket and other errands,” says Pellerin. “Last year Martha had to give up coordinating the program and begin using the service herself. She’s 91 now and can no longer drive. We never have a problem finding a driver to take Martha wherever she wants to go.”

The Shepherd’s Center offers an array of classes for ages 55 and up that keep them technologically savvy, abreast of issues they may face and immersed in the arts, travel and social activities.

Many over age 75 missed the computer age. At the center’s computer labs seniors can learn to use Word, Excel and Internet/E-mail. A Digital Imaging and Editing class teaches them how to download, edit or send photos to loved ones.

Adventures in Learning, a quarterly mini-college program, explores everything from line dancing and yoga to creative writing and painting. Senior Choices Summits offered throughout the year educate the older adult population on legal, financial and medical/health issues.

Other services include a companion aide referral, medical transportation, grocery shopping, errand and handyman services as well as travel programs and tax and insurance counseling.

The Shepherd’s Center has no governmental support and is funded primarily from individual donations in addition to assistance from area churches, businesses and foundations. With the current global financial situation, Pellerin says the coming year will be challenging.

“Many of our seniors are on fixed incomes and are looking at investments with shrinking assets,” she says, “In order to keep our fees affordable to our seniors, we continually need donations from individuals in the community.”

Although the center has around 400 volunteers sharing their gifts and expertise, more are always needed. “It’s nice to know that our volunteers have ‘payed it forward’ so that when they are in need, there will be someone there for them,” states Pellerin.


Youth Homes, Inc.
Every child deserves a family

When Jay Jarrell was 13 his life changed drastically. His parents divorced and he, his mom and siblings suffered emotionally and financially. Jarrell started skipping school and experimenting with drugs. He could have easily become another statistic, but Youth Homes, Inc. of Charlotte changed his life.

“At Youth Homes, Inc. I lived with four other kids like me. The staff made sure that I went to school and helped my mom and I improve our relationship,” says Jarrell. “I learned how to work for what I wanted in life and to do a good job when I had an opportunity to do something.”

Today, Jarrell is 46, married with a daughter and successful in his management position at AT&T. He served two terms on the Board of Directors for Youth Homes, Inc. and currently serves on the Advisory Council and as a mentor for the kids.

Since 1975, Youth Homes Incorporated (YHI) has provided supportive human services to children and families in Mecklenburg County. Professional social workers empower children and families with skills that allow them to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and family violence; find meaningful places in the community; and achieve economic self-sufficiency and independence.

In 2000, YHI was the first, private, non-profit agency to introduce an In-Home Family Preservation program to Mecklenburg County. Since inception of the program, YHI has strengthened and kept more than 700 families together, and prevented over 1,000 children from needing to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care. This has saved local taxpayers more than $25 million in public funding that would have been needed for foster care.

Executive Director Frank Crawford says that even though most of YHI’s funding comes from governmental sources, the amount of private dollars needed to make their services possible is increasing every year

“For the past six years, we have seen governmental squeezing for domestic programs,” he says. “Unfortunately, we have had to deny services at times and even close programs due to these issues.”

Crawford says YHI would greatly appreciate assistance from any individuals, corporations or organizations who have a heart for children and want to have a meaningful role in building better futures for those who need a second chance.

“We have many children and families who could use a boost during the holidays, so we are trying to identify folks who might sponsor one or more of our families during this time,” states Crawford.

Without the help of YHI Jarrell shudders to think of where he might be. He gets just as much from his experience with the organization today as he did 33 years ago. “I am truly inspired by the social workers and staff. Their dedication to service and to kids is remarkable and it inspires me to help others.”


Literacy Council of Union County
Reading for a better future

Can you imagine not being able to read a story to your child, order off the menu at a restaurant or pick out a birthday card? These are a few of the dilemmas Lena Best of Monroe faced for most of her life.

Although she graduated from high school in Texas, she says she was bounced from grade to grade without really learning to read.
For years she was too embarrassed to admit she couldn’t read, afraid people would look down on her. Today, at age 32, Lena has a new lease on life.

Through a tutoring program at The Literacy Council of Union County, Lena has received one-on-one tutoring to make measurable reading gains to improve her life. “Now I can read bedtime stories to my girls. When they come to me and ask what a word is, I can help them break it down,” says the stay-at-home mom who meets twice a week with her proud tutor.

In Union County it is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 adults are functionally illiterate, meaning that they do not read well enough to optimally function in daily life. Director Linda Moyer says that the majority of those who seek assistance are immigrants from a variety of countries. Because they were born elsewhere, they feel no shame in admitting they cannot speak or read English.

In contrast, native born Americans are typically stigmatized by their lack of reading skills and don’t want others to know that they cannot do something that young children seem to learn so effortlessly.

“Most of us would be stunned to hear a friend, co-worker or family member admit to not being able to read,” says Moyer. “Therefore these adults do not often come forward until there is a life-changing event like the loss of a spouse who handled reading related matters for the family or a disabling accident which does not allow them to do the type of job they previously held, typically manual labor.”

Since it’s inception in 1998, the Council has trained over 500 volunteer tutors and provided instruction to over 1000 people. Students are of all ages and cultures, but share one commonality – they all want to improve their lives and their family’s by learning to read or read better.

Volunteers must attend a 10-hour tutor training workshop. Upon completion they can select from a waiting list a student who can meet at convenient days and times. Ideally tutors and students meet twice a week for 60-90 minutes. Tutoring and training classes are free.

Funding for the Literacy Council comes mainly from grants, the United Way and fundraisers, but they welcome monetary donations or gift cards to office supply stores, discount retailers and grocery stores.

Your time and patience are also deeply needed for a gift that lasts a lifetime. “The commitment is just 2 – 3 hours per week, but the reward is priceless,” concludes Moyer.

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