Thanks & Giving Magazine 2020

Page 1

DEC. 1, 2020 | ISSUE 1




Charlotte Media Group

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who’s inside

3 Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill makes good things happen in our community

6 Pineville Neighbors Place steps in when life gets tough

7 The Sandbox supports a family fighting to save their son



Charlottte Rescue Mission helps man overcome his past, create a future

How community support helps the Humane Society of Union County rescue, rehab & re-home animals



Common Heart program gives residents tools to rise out of poverty

Dottie Rose Foundation aims to close gender gap in tech industry

10 Three birds who need your help

10 At C.O.S.Kids, single parents are never alone

This year give the gift of travel. 2020........


Produced by

CHARLOTTE MEDIA GROUP P.O. Box 1104 Matthews, NC 28106 (704) 849-2261 PUBLISHER Adrian Garson MANAGING EDITOR Justin Vick NEWS EDITOR Karie Simmons ART DIRECTOR Kylie Sark ADVERTISING Charlotte Conway Kate Kutzleb Loura Hilliard

Charlotte Media Group also produces weekly newspapers covering Mecklenburg and Union counties:


Appreciation, We Say

Thank You And Wish You

Season’s Greetings

C G Charlotte Media Group

Photo courtesy of Servant’s Heart

Making good things happen

in our community

Story submitted by Servant’s Heart


ow is it that people with job longevity and excellent job performance find themselves unable to pay their rent? Here are the unanticipated events of two families assisted by Servant’s Heart. Thomasina’s story Thomasina and her husband are used to helping people. That’s a role in which they are comfortable. Needing help for themselves threw the couple into uncharted territory. She reached out to Servant’s Heart during the COVID

pandemic because as a certified nursing assistant with sickle cell anemia, her health was at great risk if exposed to the coronavirus. Her husband’s was scheduled knee replacement surgery was postponed as it was considered elective surgery during the pandemic. With paid time off exhausted due to the surgical delay, their household income was nonexistent. Unable to work, yet still employed, neither Thomasina or her husband qualified for unemployment. Already behind on rent and electricity payments for August, Servant’s Heart vetted this fami-

Click the icons to follow Servant’s Heart on social media!

ly and immediately provided full payment for those past due bills. A few weeks later, her husband had knee replacement surgery and would not be able to return to work for a couple of months. Because their situation was not expected to change until the end of October, Servant’s Heart monitored their circumstances and subsequently paid September and October’s rent and electricity costs totaling $4,196.79. Additionally, this family was served from our non-food pantry and food pantry with another $700 in daily necessities. Here was a family $5,000 away

from financial devastation, perhaps even homelessness. Trauma was avoided because of a caring community that supports the work and efforts of Servant’s Heart of Mint Hill. Servant’s Heart serves residents of Mint Hill and families of students who attend Mint Hill schools. The organization operates a food pantry and community boutique that is self-funding and supports its ability to help families struggling financially. q Visit to help Servant’s Heart continue its mission.





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Photo courtesy of Abbie Moss

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Stewart


How community support helps the Humane Society rescue, rehab & re-home animals

By Karie Simmons


or more than 30 years, the Humane Society of Union County has been busy in its little corner of North Carolina. The foster-based, no-kill nonprofit in Monroe has rescued thousands of cats and dogs who were either found on the road, saved from bad situations or surrendered by their owners. Among them is Pirate — a two-yearold hound-mutt mix with a wonky eye — and Lieutenant Dan — a kitten whose leg was trapped underneath a trailer for days. Pirate’s story Pirate was removed from a hoarding situation by a rescue in Richmond County last year and transferred to the Humane Society of Union County due to a severe issue with his eye. Abbie Moss, a HSUC staff member, picked Pirate up and brought him to the clinic. “He was all happiness and butt wiggles,” Moss said, adding that Pirate got along well with strangers


and other dogs. “He’s just a giant heart on four paws.” Moss said Pirate was fed in his previous home but received little to no attention or vet care. He had an underdeveloped eye that was causing infections and limited vision. Veterinarian Jewell Abee decided the best option was to remove Pirate’s eye. After the surgery, he spent several weeks recovering at the home of foster Stephanie Schwartz. Schwartz said Pirate was hesitant at first to even enter her house — she wondered if he had ever been allowed inside before — so she picked him up and brought him in. He was also very possessive over food and ate very fast, as if he didn’t think he would be fed again, she said. “He was eating so fast he would vomit it up because his stomach couldn’t handle it,” Schwartz said. Overtime, Pirate’s eating slowed to a regular pace and he began playing with her other dog, Peanut. He also became more cuddly and loved to snuggle and sleep. “I would find him in my bed passed

Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving

out with his head on my pillow and the blanket on him like a human,” Schwartz said. Quirks of Pirate’s personality began to show as he grew more comfortable. Schwartz said Pirate liked to watch “Law & Order SVU” but barked whenever he saw actress Olivia Benson. He also discovered his reflection and would bark for hours at himself in the mirror, oven and dishwasher. “As the weeks went on, he was barking at all the appliances,” Schwartz said, laughing. “I had to cover them with towels. It was the weirdest thing.” Schwartz admitted she got attached to Pirate and was emotional when he eventually found his forever home. “Not all the fosters are good dogs because they've had terrible things happen to them, but he was just so chill and so sweet, so with dogs like that you especially want to make sure they’re in a good situation,” she said. Foster/Adoption Director Kim Siewert said the Humane Society needs community support to

cover the cost of spay/neuters, vaccinations, surgeries, medications, microchips, food, toys, bedding, litter, crates, carriers and other supplies animals need. “We rely heavily on donations to be able to continue to take in all of these animals, especially ones with special needs and amputations,” Siewert said. HSUC does not have a physical building or shelter to house cats and dogs. Instead, the nonprofit relies on fosters — like Schwartz — to provide a home environment until forever homes are found, but they need more people to volunteer. Siewert said fosters play an important role because they help with recovery, show love and in some cases, introduce pets to toys and beds for the first time. They are also vital in establishing a schedule and are involved with training. “The fosters are a huge part of helping this animal from getting to just rescued to ready for adoption,” Siewert said. Pirate now lives with Alyssa Stewart, a veterinary technician from Charlotte who was at the Humane Society to get a playmate for her dog, DJ. When she saw Pirate, she said it was “love at first sight,” and DJ liked him, too. “I noticed Pirate’s eye, but I kind of think it made him more special in my eyes,” Stewart said. "It didn’t make me nervous about him for any reason. If anything, it made me love him more.” Over the past year, Stewart said Pirate has opened up and started to look to her for more than just food, but also comfort, play and attention. He and DJ are inseparable and complement each other well. DJ is high energy, while Pirate is calm and cuddly, Stewart said. “As our relationship grows, he becomes so much more loyal and it’s just the sweetest thing in the entire world,” Stewart said. “He saved me in so many different ways I didn’t even know I needed him,” she added. “It’s funny because I went in to find DJ’s best friend and I ended up finding mine.”

Lieutenant Dan’s story Abbie Moss will never forget the day she saved Lieutenant Dan. It was a rainy night in June when she responded to a call about a kitten stuck underneath a trailer. The caller told Moss he had been hearing meowing for days, but was unable to get to the kitten himself. He asked the fire department, animal control and even his church, but no one would help, so he turned to the Humane Society of Union County. Moss took one look and saw an orange tabby cat about seven weeks old, tangled in twine and hanging upside down by one leg. Without hesitation, she grabbed a box cutter, crawled under the trailer and cut him down. As soon as they were out, Moss noticed the kitten’s leg was cold, swollen and a grayish-black color. She said it wasn’t surprising since it had “basically been in a tourniquet for three days.” “He was walking on three legs and the fourth was just dragging behind him,” Moss said. “He was very, very weak. He was dehydrated. He was emaciated.” “It was scary,” she added. “I was afraid for the kitten and I wasn’t sure it was going to end up the way that it did for him.” Moss brought the kitten to the clinic and hoped his leg could be saved, but days passed with little improvement and it was eventually amputated. Staff named him Lieutenant Dan after the character in the movie “Forrest Gump.” Heather Finn, HSUC’s clinic and operations director, fostered Lieutenant Dan for about three weeks after his surgery. He needed fluids, medication and aroundthe-clock monitoring due to his small size — 1.81 pounds — and a fever that spiked. “He needed some pretty intensive care, but he was a trooper through all of it,” Finn said. “At times, it was a little nerve-racking. I was worried for the little guy.” Donations to the Humane Society are crucial in funding every step of care needed for animals like

Lieutenant Dan. Finn said many wouldn’t be alive without them. “The vet costs are astronomical and without donations we wouldn’t be able to do it all,” she said. Luckily, donations helped pay for Lieutenant Dan’s surgery. Finn said he perked up once he got food and pain medicine and she was surprised how fast he recovered. He was quick to adapt to walking on three legs and even started to play. “It was like he never knew something was missing,” Finn said. “With fosters, it’s so rewarding and at times it’s heartbreaking,” she added. “Even when they make it, it’s sad that they had to go through those things to begin with.” Lieutenant Dan found his forever home with Kathleen Ferrell, a Humane Society volunteer who also works part-time at the nonprofit’s low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Ferrell had recently lost a kitten and wanted to bring another one home to keep its brother company. She said Lieutenant Dan, who is now about six months old, was the perfect addition. Most of the time, Ferrell said Lieutenant Dan doesn’t realize he only has three legs. He runs, climbs and plays like any other cat — he just can’t jump. He me-

“Without donations, we wouldn’t be able to do it all.” • Heather Finn

ows to let her know he wants to be picked up and placed somewhere. “He’s very vocal and he’s very social,” she said. “He is actually more dog-like than he is cat-like.” Ferrell said Lieutenant Dan greets her at the door, follows her around the house, sits at her feet while she cooks and even watches TV with her. “He loves to be in every room you’re in, including the bathroom, so there’s really no privacy,” Ferrell said. “He’s fascinated with showers. I’ve never seen anything like it.” q Visit to donate to the Humane Society of Union County or become a foster and help make more stories like these possible. Click the icons to follow on social!

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Ferrell

Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving


Pineville Neighbors Place steps in when life gets tough Story submitted by Pineville Neighbors Place


orie and her husband, Frank, are the proud parents of five beautiful children ages 10, 8, 4 and 2-year-old twins. Frank had a great job as a manager in the hospitality industry. When the pandemic hit, his restaurant was closed for three months. He continued to be employed during that time but with a reduced income. Finally, the corporation had to let him go because its sales were so low. Pineville Neighbors Place has provided financial assistance with the family’s rent and utility bills while they are waiting on unemployment to be processed. This assistance enabled the family to stay in their home. The children were dependent on the meals they ate at school to help with the family’s food budget. After schools closed, dedicated volunteers with PNP delivered nutritious meals from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to their door every weekday from March to July. These volunteers delivered over 8,000 meals in total during those five months from the school pickup sites to students’ homes.

Even though the children did not go back to school in person in August, they still needed school supplies for remote learning. PNP was able to provide backpacks with school supplies for each student. Our nonprofit provided over 700 new backpacks filled with school supplies to students at Sterling Elementary. Recently through a partnership with Promising Pages, each child received several age-appropriate books for their home library. The children were excited to have new books to read. Over-the-counter medicines for colds and allergies can be very expensive. Thanks to a donation from MedAssist, PNP provided these medicines for free to the family. 521 Ministries also gave new winter coats to each member of the family. Caring for our neighbors involves all of the Pineville community. We are so grateful for our volunteers, donors and partner agencies who have come together during this difficult year of 2020 to ensure that our neighbors have what they need. The mission of Pineville Neighbors Place is to connect our neighbors affected by poverty

Photo courtesy of Pineville Neighbors Place

and homelessness to available services, empower our neighbors to make life-sustaining choices and unify the community of Pineville. q Visit html to donate to Pineville Neighbors Place and help the organization continue its mission. Click the icons to follow Pineville Neighbors Place!



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Dancing in heaven How The Sandbox helped a family fighting to save their son

Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving


Photo courtesy of The Sandbox

Wrapping families up in the healing power of storytelling Submitted by Mara Campolungo, co-founder and executive director of The Sandbox


he Sandbox is composed of dedicated volunteers, hard-working staff and the greater Charlotte community, serving and walking alongside families who have a child diagnosed with cancer or a rare, life-altering or terminal illness. That means it’s composed of stories. After all, it’s impossible to serve and care for others without creating and sharing stories. Vincent Guy was 24 years old when he succumbed to his illness and joined those dancing in heaven. He had been a part of The Sandbox for years. We met Vincent when he was 14 years old

at our first prom, in fact. He was a dashing young man who entertained us all on the dance floor, surrounded by his friends and family. Over a decade, our volunteers and staff provided Vincent aka "ManMan" – a nickname given to him by his sister at the age of 2 – and his family with anything they needed as his mom fought tenaciously for her boy. The Sandbox organized porch drops, delivered flowers, texted daily and filled her inbox with messages of affirmation, hope and courage. Vincent’s mother’s heart was tired, yet fierce. We even participated in a homecoming parade for Vincent with over 100 cars in attendance before he passed.

Even after his death, Vincent’s story was far from over. As The Sandbox celebrated our 10 | 10 Anniversary, we asked for donations for our community, and Vincent’s mother and her daughters stepped in to help. Those we had once served were now serving others alongside us, and in a complete circle of healing, hope and love, they collected over 5,000 items to our partner organization, Cabarrus Blessing Boxes. The best part of this story might be the fact that Vincent had always wanted to start his own nonprofit. His heart was as big as his momma’s. After his passing, Vincent’s dream came true. Vinny and Friends, a new charity founded by his family and which now supports the Charlotte community, serves kids with special needs. They wrap others in the hope and love which we wrapped them in. We honored Vincent as a young boy and journeyed with him through his story. We now honor him as a HERO, and his family carries on his story through the legacy of his dream to serve others through Vinny and Friends. We cannot think of a better story. It’s true: stories can wrap us in a powerful, healing warmth, one that eclipses the sorrows of loss and grief. To carry on the memories of our HEROES while serving others in our community is just what this season means to us. There are countless ways to wrap others in hope and healing through The Sandbox. We consider it a privilege to serve families, and we hope you’ll join us. This season. Any season. Let’s be storytellers together. q Visit to donate to The Sandbox so the organization can help more families of children with rare, life-altering or terminal illnesses. Click the icons to check out their social media pages!

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Keys to success How Charlotte Rescue Mission helped man overcome his past to change his future Story submitted by Charlotte Rescue Mission


itting straight-backed at a worn wooden piano, Jovan’s fingers dance over the piano keys with the grace of a well-established musician. But behind Jovan’s music is a difficult journey: Jovan is a recovering drug and alcohol addict. Growing up in Hudson, New York, Jovan was immersed in music at a young age. Though he played multiple instruments, piano was his strongest. At age seven, he was accepted to study at the Juilliard School of Music. “That was pretty much the highlight of my life,” he said. As a child, Jovan had a close relationship with his mother. She played the role of manager, mentor and motivator. At the same time, she was mentally, physically and verbally abusive. She would often use the Bible to manipulate Jovan into attempting to earn her love.

“I struggled a lot with who tendencies in her as well. God is,” Jovan recalled. To “It helped me realize that cope, he turned to drugs and my mother is still sick, too,” alcohol at age 15. he said. “What happened to After years of struggling me isn’t supposed to keep me with addiction, Jovan hit a low in the place feeling like I’m repoint and knew he needed to sponsible.” get help. Today, Jovan is 10 months “I called Charlotte Rescue sober and looking toward the Mission and told them I need- future. He is currently studyed a program that was faith- ing for a certificate in phlebotbased,” Jovan said. omy and plans to move into Charlotte ResCharlotte Rescue Mission’s transicue Mission is a “What 120-day residentional housing to happened to provide ongoing tial addiction resupport and accovery program. me isn’t With a deep as supposed to countability understanding he re-enters the of the disease keep me in the community. He of addiction, place feeling hopes to one day the program be able to give like I’m offers a unique back to others responsible.” going through combination of substance abuse the program. counseling, Alcoholics Anon“I’ve made the choice to let ymous, Narcotics Anonymous the past be in the past,” Jovan support and a Christian faith. said. “It isn’t the end.” q For Jovan, the 12 Steps of AlVisit www.charlotterescuecoholics Anonymous program helped him come to terms with to donate to Charhis past, especially his relation- lotte Rescue Mission and make ship with his mother. In reflect- more stories like this possible. ing, Jovan could see how his Click the icons mother’s relationship with her to follow! abusive father created abusive

Photos courtesy of Charlotte Rescue Mission

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Advocating for children

At C.O.S.Kids, single parents are never alone Story submitted by C.O.S.Kids

Photos courtesy of C.O.S.Kids




ingle parents in our program come from many different backgrounds and life experiences. Nicole came to C.O.S.Kids looking for childcare for her toddler and 4-yearold. She had left their father a few months before because he was abusive and she was worried about their safety. After leaving, affording life on her own was almost impossible and Nicole often questioned her decision. She and her kids struggled, often reliving many of the events of the past. Nicole’s extended family lived in Maryland, but she couldn’t afford to go back home. She didn’t have any support outside a few friends at work. She felt very alone. Nicole found a few daycares she could afford, but she ended up worrying all day at work about her children

Margot, a male Cayuga duck, came to CWR in September from Oakboro. A concerned visitor at a park found him scared, alone and unable to move. Margot was in a lot of pain. Domestic ducks are not made to live in the wild and cannot survive on their own. Our medical team determined he had been attacked by a predator, leaving severe wounds and multiple infections. Margot has since been under treatment in our hospital receiving antibiotics pain medicine and constant care. His road to recovery is slow, but we will be with him every step of the way, Please consider sponsoring Margot. He needs all the help he can get.

Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving

and what they were learning. Then Nicole heard about the Single Parent Program at C.O.S.Kids. We come alongside single parents and provide scholarship assistance, emotional and spiritual support and help them navigate and access community resources. For Nicole, this was a huge relief, especially when we connected her to a therapist. Just as important, Nicole found friendships, understanding and encouragement among other single parents, some of whom had been through similar situations. Based in Matthews, C.O.S.Kids is a 5-STAR, Christian-based nonprofit child care organization serving all families, but with a special outreach to low-income, single-parent families. Visit to donate to C.O.S.Kids and help more single parents like Nicole.


Click the icons to follow C.OS.Kids on social media!

VOLUNTEER SHOUTOUT “Abundance produces abundance!” That’s what someone once said about one of the volunteers at C.O.S.Kids, and that is exactly what Criss Ucman personifies. Criss has been volunteering with C.O.S.Kids since October 2017 and has passionately invested in the C.O.S. Afterschool program. She not only finds thought-provoking, creative ways that she can support the children, but she also encourages others, including her husband, Mr. Joe, to join her in the mission of mentoring and building relationships with children at C.O.S.Kids. She has encouraged fellow artists (the Art Ladies!) to join her so that she could initiate a weekly Art Club, using supplies that she

purchased or were gifted by her home church, Cross & Crown Lutheran in Matthews. She is also a member of a group of amazing friends from Cross & Crown who support our Single Parent Program each month by gathering to plan and cook Thursday evening meals for grateful parents Criss is deeply passionate, committed to and always eager to lend a helping hand when needed. During the COVID crisis, even when volunteers are not currently allowed to be on campus, Criss has found ways to continue to give back and contribute time and time again whether it was videotaping an art lesson so that the kids could continue their art time with her or providing canvas bags filled with art supplies and

A sheriff’s deputy from a neighboring county called about a family of Muscovy ducks plowed over on the road. When we arrived on scene, Lincoln had lost her entire family and was clinging to life. She was traumatized. Our rehab staff stabilized her and made her comfortable. After sustaining a head injury, Lincoln has lost vision in her right eye. She receives eye drops twice a day and there is a chance the eye will have to be removed. Sponsor Lincoln to help her continued recovery.

instructions on how to complete an art project. Criss once said, “I feel like the most blessed person in the world,” but in reality, she is the one that fervently blesses the kids and staff at C.O.S.Kids as she continues to actively pursue ways to make the kids feel loved. Children with exposure to enrichment activities, encouragement and mentoring through positive relationships with adults can experience a change in the trajectory of their lives. It’s because of the unwavering dedication of volunteers like Criss who make this world and organizations like C.O.S.Kids a better place. q

Moonpie is the tiniest of all our turkeys and the newest to our flock. Poor thing got quite banged up when she fell off a meat truck and suffered further injuries defending herself from predators. She was spotted running across a busy road and brought to us. Moonpie arrived starving, exhausted and in pain. With the care of our team, she has a promising future. Please help Moonpie by sponsoring her. Visit to donate to Carolina Waterfowl Rescue or learn how to sponsor one of these animals.

Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving


Getting ahead and staying there Common Heart program helps residents rise out of poverty By Karie Simmons


ommon Heart is an Indian Trail-based nonprofit founded in 2006 that focuses on food pantries, economic empowerment and literacy. Under the economic empowerment umbrella sits the Getting Ahead program — an 18-session focus group in which participants learn and develop skills needed to rise out of both generational and situational poverty. Learning takes place through discussions and shared investigations without one person being a teacher. Two of Common Heart’s Getting Ahead graduates were willing

to share their stories in the hopes of inspiring both the participants who come after them, and the donors who helped make their success possible. Here are their stories of ambition and diligence. Sarah’s story Sometimes when it rains, it pours. Such was the case for Sarah Kimbrough, a former paramedic and mother of four with big dreams who just couldn’t catch a break. Last year, Sarah was hot-wiring her car on and off each time she needed to travel. The cupboards in her home always seemed to be running low and the bills were piling up.

Sarah left her job as a paramedic because of the crazy hours, dangerous scenarios and low pay. Her husband was working, but she couldn’t find any jobs that would still allow her to care for their children — three of whom have special needs. Then the pipes burst in the trailer they were renting and they moved in with Sarah’s mom. The Monroe native was utilizing Common Heart’s food pantry when she learned about the Getting Ahead program. At first, she admitted she only signed up for the incentives — gift cards, free weekly dinners and free childcare. “They really try to remove all the barriers that normal people in pov-

erty face,” Sarah said. “They take care of everything.” But this focus group quickly became much more to Sarah and her family as they started their journey out of poverty. She said the classes reignited her ambition and helped her figure out how to get around obstacles. The biggest takeaway was the importance of having a network of resources, she said. “They were able to hold my hand and push me along,” Sarah said. “We had a lot of conversations of how to jump over the hurdles and get past the poverty.” More than a year later and Sarah has a reliable vehicle and a part-time,

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in-home nursing job that works with her schedule to care for the children, thanks to networking and resource sharing from Getting Ahead. She wants to go to nursing school and said Common Heart is currently helping her find scholarships. Sarah’s experience with Common Heart not only helped her family, but encouraged her to help others in similar situations. After graduating from Getting Ahead, Sarah served as a co-facilitator for the most recent focus group and has since completed training to facilitate the next group on her own. “I felt like I could help teach it and not be so judgmental,” Sarah said. "I thought I could bring that unique perspective like, ‘I did it and when I started Getting Ahead a year and half ago, I was right where you are.’” She’s also a key member of the committee working to host the first official R Rules session — a similar program for teens. Sarah said she wants to help youth in generational poverty break out of the cycle by exploring their potential and implement plans to achieve their dreams. Sarah wants to be an inspiration and hopes her children look at her as an example of diligence. “Don’t give up. Dust your butt off and keep going,” Sarah said. “If you can solve one problem, you can solve another problem. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be stable. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have another one, but you can always learn from them.” Sandy’s story When Sandy Reid and her family moved to Monroe two years ago, they had dreams of eventually living in the city of Charlotte. They thought they had a solid plan — live temporarily in a hotel while searching for an affordable home for their three children — but it proved to be more difficult than they ever imagined. Before they knew it, three weeks in the hotel turned into three months and they were blowing through their savings just trying to stay afloat. Sandy said they struggled to find resources to improve their situation and they were running out of time. “I was at a serious low place,” Sandy said. “We had to jump over a lot of hurdles. It wasn’t easy. I learned a lot during that time.” Everything changed once Sandy’s church in-

Photos courtesy of Common Heart

troduced her to Common Heart. She said the nonprofit gave her resources and helped her family move into an affordable home. “Finding an organization that truly cared and truly took the time to listen and never treated me as a number…that was huge,” Sandy said. Sandy also started participating in Common Heart’s Getting Ahead program. She said the classes reminded her of her strengths, showed her where she could grow and changed her mindset from a “right here right now thinking to a goal-focused thinking.” Her husband was so inspired by her progress that he enrolled, too. During that time, Sandy was working as Common Heart’s assistant pantry manager and later promoted to economic empowerment manager, meaning she’s now in charge of the program she once participated in. She coordinates classes, facilitates discussions and also helped create a new course called Staying Ahead — a follow-up for Getting Ahead grads — that focuses on financial literacy, negotiation skills and escaping relational drama. “It means so much more when you’re talking to someone who can relate to what you’re going

through,” Sandy said. “And it’s so much more beneficial to talk to someone who has been where you are and is a step further, even if it’s a small step.” Getting Ahead was the jumpstart Sandy needed to overcome the barriers preventing her from following her passion. She has since earned a degree in creative writing and literature from Antioch University and published a book, “Conversations with my Daughter About Racism,” that’s available on Amazon. She eventually wants to host workshops on the topics of racism and social injustice. “Common Heart has given me the space to really be who I am and connect to the community and that’s big for me,” Sandy said. “They definitely opened the door and really ignited the fire that was in me before that had kind of dwindled.” q Visit to give to Common Heart and help make more stories like these possible. Click the icons to follow Common Heart on social media!

If you can solve one problem, you can solve another problem. It doesn’t mean you're going to be stable. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have another one, but you can always learn from them.” Charlotte Media Group • Thanks & Giving



Dottie Rose Foundation aims to close gender gap in tech By Karie Simmons


Photos courtesy of the Dottie Rose Foundation


hat comes to mind when you think of computer science? To 13-yearold Whitley Ryles, it sounded boring. The last thing she wanted when she grew up was a job in technology, sitting behind a desk all day in a stuffy office. That was before the Dottie Rose Foundation showed Whitley the real-world applications of computer science, and how technology is integrated into everything we use today from phones to websites to games and apps. “It opened my mind up to find out more about it,” Whitley said. “It sparked an interest.” Whitley, now 15 years old and a freshman at Rocky River High School, has been involved with Dottie Rose for two years and attends several summer camps and workshops. Last year, she asked her guidance counselor to change her elective school courses to computer science. She enjoys coding languages like HTML, JavaScript and Python. “I like to see it and I like to solve it,” Whitley said. Dottie Rose is a Charlotte-based nonprofit whose mission is to provide opportunities for all girls to learn computer science and understand how they can use it in their everyday lives and as a potential career choice. Because the percentage of women in tech is much lower than men in tech, founder Sharon Jones has focused her energy and passion on educating adolescent girls just like Whitley.

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Community support helps Dottie Rose keep its mission alive. All donations go toward hiring more teachers for summer camps, a permanent office space, new technology for all camps and workshops and scholarships for the girls to attend camps. Whitley is currently enrolled in a school-long program called Stack Bytes, where is she learning full stack development (how to design a complete website). Full stack web developers work on the frontend, backend, database and debugging of web application or websites. “We had to create a course for our girls that were getting older — this course is for ninth grade girls,” said Executive Director Jillian Klingberg. “We want to be able to continue to [connect with] our girls and work with them the older they get.” The teen also volunteers at Dottie Rose and helps teach younger girls. “I want the girls to be in my shoes,” Whitley said. "I want them to feel the same way I feel about the organization and I want them to really know what it’s like to be a girl in tech.” Whitley’s mom, Erika, is “ec-

static” her daughter has an interest in technology. She said many kids Whitley’s age don’t know what they want to do and are still figuring it out in the first few years of college. “This has implanted such a deep seed in her life that she’s going to go in knowing that she wants to do something in the world of tech and that’s very helpful,” Erika said. Aside from general life direction, Erika said Dottie Rose has also given Whitley a boost of confidence. The camps and workshops increased her creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and as a result, her grades in school have improved. Whitley has noticed a change in her personality, too. She is no longer shy and uncomfortable sparking conversation. “Without Dottie Rose, I’d probably still be quiet and not outgoing at all,” Whitley said. "The girl that keeps to herself.” q Visit www.dottierosefoundation. org/get-involved to give to the Dottie Rose Foundation and make more stories like this possible. Click the icons to follow on social!

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