United Way of Central Carolinas announced $481,517 in Unite Charlotte grants for 20 local nonprofits and neighborhood organizations today.

 

Unite Charlotte is a community fund established last fall in response to the civic unrest in Charlotte. Led by initial grants from Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, and facilitated by United Way and Foundation For The Carolinas, the fund supports programs and organizations focused on community healing, rebuilding trust and creating opportunities in Mecklenburg County.

 

The grants range from $2,500 to $25,000, invested into programs ranging from job creation and entrepreneurial training for formerly incarcerated individuals, to addressing gentrification of minority neighborhoods, to building trust between communities and police and justice systems.

 

“We’re grateful for the leadership of Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, the Knight Foundation and others for stepping up to make this happen,” said Sean Garrett, United Way’s executive director. “After listening to people affected by Charlotte’s lack of opportunity, Unite Charlotte is investing in ideas positioned to address the community’s issues in innovative ways. Our region’s challenges go back generations, so there is no quick fix, but it’s a path forward in creating new solutions.”

 

United Way led four meetings across the community early this year to share the goals of Unite Charlotte and help organizations with the application process. More than 150 people attended, and grant requests were submitted by 226 organizations. The applications were evaluated by a 12-member committee consisting of leaders from the faith, education and business communities, as well as community-based organizations and donors.

 

Committee member Brandon Neal, senior counsel for Wells Fargo, described the review process as “exciting and energetic – it gave us an opening to change the dynamic and paradigm of traditional grant-making in Charlotte.”

 

“Dealing with the issues of September forced us outside the box,” he continued. “We’re planting seeds in neighborhoods that may have been overlooked in the past. We’re also encouraging the grant recipients to collaborate strategically for a larger impact than they could achieve on their own.”

 

Unite Charlotte funders include Wells Fargo ($250,000), Knight Foundation ($150,000), Duke Energy ($100,000), Walmart Foundation ($50,000), Elevation Church ($25,000), Foundation For The Carolinas ($25,000), Charlotte WILL ($10,000) and Clariant ($10,000).

 

“Wells Fargo invested a quarter of a million dollars in this fund,” said Jay Everette, Wells Fargo’s senior community relations manager. “We saw it as a strategic investment to help organizations doing innovative work to address critical social and economic challenges in our community. True social change takes time, but investments like these can be a great catalyst for driving meaningful first steps to address underlying and systemic issues like racism, access, equity and inclusion.”

 

One outcome of United Way’s community outreach around the Unite Charlotte fund was a request by 10 organizations to participate in a workshop called Dismantling Racism, facilitated by Race Matters for Juvenile Justice. The intensive two-day training helps participants understand and address systemic racism.

 

Unite Charlotte was conceived at the same time as Charlotte’s Statement of Commitment, which publicly acknowledged racism’s role in September’s unrest. Given that, the 12-member committee agreed the workshop gets to the core of why the fund was created. The committee voted to invest $195,270 for a Dismantling Racism workshop for 630 participants, a racial equity impact analysis and two, 2-day Resist Racism workshops for 80 local high school and college students.

 

Additional Unite Charlotte grants are expected to be deployed after second-round applications open this summer. In the interim, United Way will work with applicants from the first round who had promising ideas but didn’t meet all the grant requirements.