CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The United Way of Greater Charlotte has invested $16 million toward organizations and efforts helping to make communities stronger.
Grants totaling $9 million were awarded to 132 neighborhood and grassroots organizations working to lift families out of poverty and improve economic mobility.
As for the remaining dollars, United Way is investing $5 million to help people experiencing homelessness and $2 million toward community investments and donor-directed funding for nonprofits.
United Way of Greater Charlotte CEO Laura Yates Clark says the grant funds will help many groups devote more hours to their neighbors and less time on fundraising.
"Every minute they are spending fundraising is a minute they are not spending delivering their services and helping those most in need," Clark said. "So if United Way can relieve that burden and give the whole community an opportunity to be a part of that solution, we're happy to do it."
GardHouse, a Charlotte nonprofit helping minority students secure paid internships, is receiving $60,000 in grant funds.
Founder and executive director Jonathan Gardner says those dollars are mobilizing the organization to help more college students across the Charlotte community.
"I started this organization because Black and brown college students graduate twice as likely to be unemployed," Gardner said. "It's typically because they don't have the social capital, meaning the professional network to open doors for them. But also they don't get the experience during the actual school year to be able to apply what they're learning in the classroom and be able to see it come to fruition in real life."
Gardner says his company just finished its cohort of 37 interns who made a positive impact in their work spaces.
"Our interns were able to provide operational support to all our employee partners, from being able to run program services, to creating budgets, to identifying potential donors or business partners, as well as helping out with executing business development plans," Gardner said.
Gardner says GardHouse is looking to grow its intern base to 70 in the fall. He says the grant money is helping them to achieve that goal.
"United Way serves as an accelerator for a lot of nonprofits here in Charlotte," Gardner said. "For us, it really has helped not only provide the stamp of approval in the Charlotte community, but it also has helped us to grow our board, grow our staff and reach even more students because we now have the capacity to do such."
Kaosisochi Duruanyim, 20, studies nursing at Central Piedmont Community College. He's also one of the GardHouse interns.
Throughout the semester, Duruanyim was interning at SchermCo, a national social impact implementation firm that does strategic planning and organizational development projects with social impact organizations nationwide.
"When I really got into [it], I realized how much work truly goes into the planning of a business," Duruanyim said.
This internship is not only providing Duruanyim work experience, it's also putting more money in his pocket.
"Allows me to be financially able to do things I want to do, financially able to save. Allows me to help around the house more, allows me to be an overall great son, student," Duruanyim said.
SchermCo founder Greg Schermbeck says interns and team members like Duruanyim are a huge asset to his business.
"They've been able to bring real-life experiences and insight into what we do, and also provide valuable support to the clients we serve," Schermbeck said. "More businesses should understand the powerful work of GardHouse to create more work-based learning opportunities and internships for college students of color. And the ability for the organization to create this platform to connect college students of color with paid internships — it's a game changer that will help the Charlotte community."
Duruanyim says he's grateful to GardHouse for opening internship doors for students of color who need the experience.
"What they're doing is important," Duruanyim said. "It's not just about getting paid. It's also about the learning experience."
GardHouse says thanks to the United Way grant, they'll be hiring a development director to assist with fundraising and financial efforts.
Other organizations awarded grant funds include Block Love Charlotte, Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays and Let's Talk About It-The Autism Center.