COVID-19 grant helps Charlotte women build new lives beyond prison walls

COVID-19 grant helps Charlotte women build new lives beyond prison walls

When the coronavirus crisis hit Charlotte, the United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation For The Carolinas partnered to launch the COVID-19 Response Fund.

The fund supports a range of nonprofits, assisting people most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Importantly, this fund will help not just those who get sick, but also those who find themselves economically impacted.

One of the grant recipients was Changed Choices, which received $25,000 to provide emergency financial assistance and stipends to its incarcerated clients.

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The nonprofit provides a range of counseling and support services to currently and recently incarcerated women to help them transition into society, make positive changes in their lives and achieve self-sufficiency.

“Because of our long-term relationships with the women, we have a unique opportunity to connect them with resources that can help them and their families, especially since 63% of our community clients lost employment or had their hours reduced,” said Diane Hunt, executive director of Changed Choices.

Within the next 90 days, it will use its grant to assist clients with rent and utility assistance and gift cards to purchase groceries.

“The women we serve are working hard to get back on their feet after incarceration and many do not yet have savings to draw on during this crisis,” Hunt said.

The organization has been forced to make changes to its programming because of the pandemic.

“We have made numerous adjustments to be able to continue to stay connected with our clients in meaningful ways,” Hunt said. “We have made use of virtual platforms for meetings and group activities.”

After cancelling its annual fundraiser, budgeted to bring in $60,000, the nonprofit is looking for ways to mitigate the loss of that projected income.

“How will donor giving be impacted long term?” Hunt asked. “As a service organization that is key to our operations.”

When asked what her hope is for the community during this time, Hunt said, “We hope to see a stronger, supportive community where we come together in new and creative ways to serve all of Charlotte’s residents with excellence.”

Changed Choices is one of many organizations working to support those in need of food and financial and housing assistance.

Over the next month, Crisis Assistance Ministry expects an unprecedented emergency for those who have lost their jobs or had their work hours cut amid the crushing economic downturn, and due to the financial repercussions the virus has caused.

Crisis Assistance Ministry provides assistance and advocacy for people in financial crisis, helping them move toward self-sufficiency.

The combination of difficulties paying rent, mortgages and utilities, spikes in foreclosures and evictions, the need to assert tenants’ rights, homelessness and a potential second wave of the coronavirus this winter will be a heavy burden for tens of thousands of families to bear.

In response, WSOC-TV has launched 9 Crisis Help. The funds collected will go directly to Crisis Assistance Ministry to help people pay essential bills.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Sinead Taylor, WSOC-TV community affairs specialist, at Sinead.Taylor@wsoc-tv.com.