Out of Office

BelkCloseFrom the sales floor of a department store or a desk at the corporate offices, Charlotte’s Reid Park Academy may seem like a world away. But late last week, more than 250 employees of Belk, Inc. found themselves at the west Charlotte school armed with paint brushes, gardening gloves and trash bags.

“It’s been nice to leave your job for a few hours and do something like this,” Belk employee Richard Carter told the Charlotte Observer. “It’s fun to give something back to the community.”

The project at Reid Park marked the end of a four-month endeavor by Belk to mobilize 23,000 employees in 16 states as part of the company’s 125 Days of Service.

Reid Park Academy was one of eleven Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools serving low-income families which received improvements ranging from new landscaping and paint to bookshelves.

Nationwide, Belk employees worked on the campuses of 220 schools during projects organized by Points of Light, the parent organization of Hands On Charlotte.

The Belk initiative in Charlotte is one of the largest examples of recent All Hands projects managed by Hands On Charlotte.

Each year, Hands On Charlotte matches employees of companies, both large and small, with the needs of our community. The employer identifies the company’s volunteer interests and timeline, and Hands On Charlotte makes a match with one of more than 100 partner agencies, while also providing the tools and management oversight to ensure the volunteer project goes smoothly for all involved.

Hands On Charlotte would like to say “thanks” for the contributions of Belk employees that will have a direct impact on students returning to class this fall. “We’re impacting the learning environment and giving kids the chance to be more productive citizens,” Eric Law, Hands On Charlotte’s executive director, told the Charlotte Observer.

Check out some additional pictures at Hands On Charlotte’s Facebook page

By The Numbers (in 16 states)

  • 21,000 volunteer hours of service
  • 8,000 books collected or donated
  • 5,000 paintings produced
  • 315 picnic tables built
  • $500,000 = value of service hours
  • 131,000 = number of students impacted by volunteer projects
Mark Boone
Board Member & Communications Volunteer
Hands On Charlotte


New Leadership

The Board of Directors of Hands On Charlotte recently elected new officers and added five new members to the board of the Charlotte nonprofit.

Sasha Trosch, executive director of external relations for the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, is the new board chair. Mark Kutny, an attorney with Hamilton Stephens Steele + Martin, PLLC is vice chair. Jane Bufkin, P&L and risk control analyst at Bank of America, is secretary and Gaston Wilson, a CPA in private practice, continues his role as treasurer.

New members elected to the Board of Directors are:

Allyson Pyeritz Colaco, non-profit fundraising consultant;

Keith Cradle, adolescent program manager, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office;

• Dawn Fisher, compensation consultant, Wells Fargo;

Melisa LaVergne, community volunteer;

• Matthew Robertson, special counsel, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP; and

• Mark Schuler, managing director, Accenture

“Our new board members bring a wealth of knowledge and talent to Hands On Charlotte,” said Eric Law, executive director. “These appointments reflect HOC’s commitment to finding the very best leaders to guide the organization’s continued growth and service to the community.”

About Hands On Charlotte

Hands On Charlotte (www.handsoncharlotte.org) is a nonprofit volunteer service organization,founded in 1991, that promotes volunteerism and direct community service to meet Charlotte’s most critical needs. HOC’s mission is to inspire, equip and mobilize a diverse corps of volunteers to strengthen our community. Working with more than 100 non-profit partner agencies, HOC volunteers provided more than 35,000 hours of service in 2012. Hands On Charlotte is a charter member of the HandsOn Network, an international, innovative alliance of volunteer organizations working to build community through service and civic engagement.

Family Day at the Bechtler Museum

One couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. Not only did we have a lovely spring day in January, but we also participated in Family Day at the Bechtler museum.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art hosted a fun filled day which included museum tours and arts activities for children under the age of 18.  Shortly after noon, the museum bustled with children’s excitement to let their imagination run wild. Hands On Charlotte was asked to facilitate one of the arts activities for students.  Families could choose to participate in a scavenger hunt, water color still life, oil portrait drawing, and/or pipe cleaning sculptures.  For my time, I volunteered to help children make their own sculpture.

One of the Bechtler’s featured collections is Giacometti: Memory and Presence. The collection features one of the most recognized modernist artist in the 20th century. Giacometti was known for evoking emotion through sculpture, paintings, prints and drawings to name a few.  As an activity, the Bechtler wanted children to emulate Giacometti’s process of creating sculptures.

It was great to see the creativity among the children with just two pipe cleaners, play doh and tin foil. The bustle in the video gallery influenced some of the parents to create their own sculpture!  I loved the variety of sculptures and the interaction with each individual. It was interesting to hear some of the children’s reasons for their sculpture and the questions asked.  I can’t capture all of the sculptures. Let’s just say no two creations were alike!

If you didn’t have the opportunity to participate this month, there will be another opportunity on February 5th.

Leticia Foster
Communications Volunteer
Hands On Charlotte

Celebrating Dr. King through Service

Let the countdown begin! Tomorrow is the MLK Call to Service presented by Hands On Charlotte. In previous years, Hands On Charlotte has hosted a fun filled day of community service projects on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. This year, we changed not only the day but the structure to meet community’s growing enthusiasm. Tomorrow, Saturday, January 19 we will host a day of service at not one…two… but THREE Mecklenburg locations.

From 10am-2pm, HOC will convene at three Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: Blythe Elementary School, East Mecklenburg High School and Harding University High School.  At each school, one can help sort donated clothing for Crisis Assistance Ministry, wrap books for Promising Pages, and/or stuff pencil packages for Classroom Central. Kids of all ages can let their creative energy flow while making greeting cards for Friendship Trays.

Last year, I had the privilege of helping Crisis Assistance Ministries with the Poverty Simulation.  It was a touching experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to interact with the organization but also learned so much about the constituents within my local community.  I was so moved by interaction that I continued couldn’t stop spreading the word.

Come out and kick off your 2013 resolutions with service to the Charlotte community. No need to sign up to attend. Just stop by and lend your community an hour or two of your time.  If you are lucky, you might catch up with Charlotte’s local blogger from Pure & Simple Organizing or win a US Airways gift card.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  See you on Saturday!

Leticia Foster
Communications Volunteer
Hands On Charlotte

New Year, New Opportunities

As I step out of room 2012 and into room 2013, I realize that I will never be able to enter the room of 2012 again and will only be left with the memories of what once was. I look ahead in to the new room that awaits me, and I am excited for the possibilities that lie ahead in the next year I will spend in this room.

Like many others, I walk into the room with goals that I want to turn the room into. There are things I want to see, windows I want to open, things I want to create and people I want to help. I know that like most everyone, there is not a regret from the last year that too much time was spent helping others, but there is always a little something in everyone’s minds that wishes they would have done a little more to help the less fortunate.

Hands On Charlotte has a room for 2013. There is space for you and everyone you know to pay a visit and return often. Hands On Charlotte partners with more than 100 nonprofit organizations to organize groups of people and serve the needs of the less fortunate through various volunteer activities.

Hands On Charlotte’s goal is to recruit thousands of visitors in the month of January, and for those people to become regular givers to the needs of those that don’t always have the fortunes of everyone else. A great opportunity to become involved or reconnect with Hands On Charlotte is on Saturday January 19th. This is the day set for the Martin Luther King Call to Service.

Every year Hands On Charlotte unites people to spend this day giving to the community through various non-profit groups to honor Dr. King’s legacy. This year the activities will be spread through three locations and will involve many young people through various school programs. I challenge you to step forward in the first part of the year and be an example for young people. The locations are East Mecklenburg High School, Harding University High and Blythe Elementary School. These are drop in locations with various activities ranging from organizing donated food and clothing, creating video messages for troops overseas, wrapping books for children living in shelters and many others.

Let’s all start the year off with a shelf in our room that displays what we have done for others. Even if many won’t be able to see the shelf, it will be something that you can look upon throughout the year as something you are proud of. You will smile to yourself and know all of the lives you touched. That is something that will be with you for the rest of your life, the time you decided to start helping others more. That small amount of time out of our lives can help to make a world of difference in a life we will never know. Think of how good it will feel to know that in some small way you are helping 2013 to start off better for a complete stranger. I look forward to seeing you at one of these locations and spend a few hours with you to change lives forever.

“It takes a noble man to plant a seed for a tree that will some day give shade to people he may never meet.”  – D. Elton Trueblood

Ryan Kamp
Communications Volunteer
Hands On Charlotte



One Volunteer’s Perspective

Jennifer Burnham, a personal organizing expert, is sharing her thoughts on volunteerism and the MLK Call to Service on Saturday, January 19. Jennifer plans to post a series of three blogs highlighting her Hands On Charlotte experience. You can read more here.

Where a child (and their parent) meets the village

Kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. Or, it isn’t what I remember it to be.

I recently discovered this as I struggle to keep up with my eldest son’s social calendar, school fundraisers, class projects, extracurricular activities and homework. He’s five years old, a kindergartner. An 8-hour school day followed by homework!?

The kindergarten I remember was comprised of circle time, free play time and naps. The school day was four hours long.

I have no doubt the reading and writing skills my son is honing early in his education will help him succeed well into high school and beyond. My wife and I are very pleased with his teacher and the public school he is attending.

But Kindergarten has been an eye-opener on just how involved a parent must be in their child’s education. All too often, students do not have the full support of their family. Educators believe the lack of parental support is a key reason why nearly 20% of all North Carolina students don’t graduate from high school.

When parents are struggling to provide basic needs for their children, like food and shelter, it’s easy to understand why they may not be focused on what’s happening at their child’s school. Language barriers also isolate parents from their school communities.

Hands On Charlotte, along with several partner agencies, is working to eliminate these hurdles and engage more parents in their child’s education through a new initiative, the Coalition for Albemarle Road Elementary School (CARES). The coalition opens the school on two evenings each month and invites adults and children to come to the school for a free dinner. The meal is followed by educational clubs for students and life-skills classes for parents, including Healthy Living, English as a Second Language (ESL) and CMS Parent University. CARES also provides childcare for younger children.

CARES borrowed the Family Night concept from a similar program at McClintock Middle School. Since its inception in 2007, McClintock Partners in Education (McPIE) has seen a decrease in student absenteeism and higher scores on standardized tests. Like CARES, the efforts at McClintock are a collaborative effort involving a church, the neighborhood and the school’s faculty and staff.  

Educational achievement is only one measurement of success for Family Night. Kamille Pickens, one of three AmeriCorps VISTA members who help Hands On Charlotte manage the CARES initiative, said instructors have given parents some potentially life-changing advice: a mother who was able to get a scholarship from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to pay for a mammogram after finding a lump in her breast, and several ESL families who learned their rights when stopped by law enforcement, clearing up some common misconceptions.

Through these relationships and by establishing networks of support, volunteers can help children succeed in school and improve the lives of their families. It’s an investment of time and money. Grants from the City of Charlotte, the Teen Impact Fund and the Annie E. Casey Foundation help cover expenses, including meals, program materials and childcare providers. Donations from individuals and partner agencies will be crucial for sustaining the Family Night program.

Opportunities abound for volunteers who wish to bolster the work of Charlotte’s educators in other ways. Hands On Charlotte’s project calendar includes several tutoring and mentoring events every month, through partnerships with Central Piedmont Community College and several Mecklenburg non-profit agencies.

When our community shares its talent, time and resources, every child has the ability to succeed in school and establish a foundation for a successful life.

Mark Boone

Board Member and Communications Volunteer

Hands On Charlottte

Sprint for Service

“Competition for the sake of a good cause.” Are you puzzled when reading this phrase? Well you better believe it… Hands On Charlotte will conquer both in its first annual Sprint for Service event.

 Sprint for Service is scavenger hunt which will take teams throughout Charlotte to help individuals, meet fellow residents, and raise money for Hands On Charlotte.  The five-hour event will host up to 100 teams of two to five individuals to complete brief tasks for non-profit agencies.  To start the fun filled event, teams will meet at Queen City Q (225 E 6th Street, Charlotte) for a quick orientation and to receive the first clue to the first destination.  Upon completion of each task, HOC will provide the next clue for the remaining undisclosed locations. The first team to find and complete all tasks will win a $1,000 US Airways gift card. What a perfect prize as the summer travel season is just around the corner!   

So don’t be left in the dust. Gather your friends, families, co-workers, colleagues and neighbors to come out and support Hands on Charlotte. Sign up your team by May 25th and HOC will waive the $25 registration fee!

Leticia Foster

Communications Volunteer

Hands On Charlotte

Editors note: Hands On Charlotte’s Sprint for Service was inspired by the Dash for a Difference – an event organized by our sister agency Boston Cares. For a look at this fun event, we suggest you take a look at their event photos

Smash & Bash: ‘getting all that leftover weekly stress out’

Smash & Bash is a great volunteer opportunity listed on our calendar, and you have a chance to sign up for the opportunity this Saturday, Dec. 17. Here is a little about it:

About the Organization/Project: Through the selling of donated construction and home-related items, Habitat Restore hopes to: 1. Increase the number of homes build with low-income families through Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte, 2. Prevent usable items from being put in landfills, and 3. Provide quality-building materials to the general public at discounted prices.

One of our wonderful volunteers, Lauren Griffin, volunteered with Smash & Bash in November, and here’s what she had to say about it:

This opportunity was very fulfilling! I started by meeting Mark, the event leader, and also Jeff, the Restore Expert. Both were very welcoming by introducing the project and goals. Jeff took the volunteers right into the back room to showcase the items that we were going to take apart. I couldn’t believe the large amount of washers and dryers that were abandoned, damaged and collected. I could see why this place needed some extra hands! The Restore tests these items to see if they can still re-sell. After declaring if these items are recyclable, they are taken apart to make profit off of the wire, the motors and the metals. What a great way to get some cash for parts!  After a very thorough demonstration, Jeff let us get to work. I worked with a partner for the first few washers and dryers to get a hand on things. Besides inspecting the items for recyclable parts, there was much energy used for the smashing and bashing. That was my favorite part… getting all that leftover weekly stress out on a Saturday Morning! I made friends with that hammer. Some Advice: wear gloves and safety goggles at all times, get ready to get your clothes and shoes dusty, and be prepared to have a great attitude when you leave. This was well worth the time, I would definitely go back to help the Habitat Restore!

So, hurry up and sign up for this weekend’s opportunity today! Spots are filling up. And if you still need more convincing, check out these awesome photos:


Story mentions two of our partners

This story from Fox Charlotte discusses Charlotte’s panhandling. A task force formed by one of Hands On Charlotte’s partner agencies, Center City Partners, looked into Charlotte’s street population and declared its support of agencies that serve the homeless such as that of another one of our partners, Steele Creek Outreach‘s Serve Charlotte’s Homeless program. David Levine, a Hands On Charlotte volunteer, is quoted in the article.

“The business group put together a task force that looked into Charlotte’s street population. It concluded the best way to help the nearly 3600 homeless adults is for people to give to organizations that feed the hungry, rather than individuals that beg for help.

Dale Mullennix with Urban Ministry Center says that’s the way to end homelessness. “Then if somebody’s asking for money on the street, they’re probably not homeless,” said Mullennix. “They’ve decided that’s their way of making a living, and obviously we don’t need to support that.”

Serve Charlotte’s Homeless is another organization that also helps people in need. “We don’t want precedent set right now that effects all the homeless in Charlotte that are fighting everyday to survive,” said volunteer David Levine.”

Click here for the full story.