Partnership building equitable community recognized for consistent work

Partnership building equitable community recognized for consistent work

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 are economically impacted.

One of the grant recipients was University City Foundation (UCITY Family Zone) who received $45,000.

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“The COVID-19 crisis has completely eliminated the means of financial support for many families in our local communities,” said Mark DeHaven, Co-Director of UCITY Family Zone.

“Many of the neighbors in our area work low-wage and low-skill jobs and are now unemployed. Along with the loss of income many families find that they now have a greater need for other types of services and assistance that they did not need previously.”

While we are developing more long term and sustainable solutions, the funding they are receiving now is paving the way to the next step in the COVID-19 recovery by putting in place structures that can offer support to people living through a very challenging set of circumstances.

“The next three months are a pivotal time for communities and our city leaders to work together developing creative solutions to residents’ most pressing needs,” DeHaven said.

UCITY Family Zone is a collaborative, place-based initiative empowering communities to increase opportunity and quality of life. They work with community residents in ways that bring the community together, identify and align resources and assets, and promote collaboration and partnership to address community needs and priorities as they are identified and expressed by members of the community.

“The number of volunteer hours, commitments from faith communities, financial donations and general spirit of people rolling up their sleeves to solve problems together has just been enormous and gratifying,” DeHaven said.

“We have been amazed at the amount of support and engagement we have received throughout the community and the city,”

The objective of their work is to empower the local community in order to build resource and social equity. Many needs have been highlighted during the crisis, but more individuals and organizations are creating a richer and more vibrant dialogue, a larger and more sustainable ecosystem and the means for coordinating activities more efficiently and in ways that more efficiently respond to identified community needs.

“Our entire community is pulling together, and everyone is contributing whatever resources and talents they have available,” DeHaven said. “It is really remarkable what happens when people work together — problems are solved, lives are touched and people are hopeful.”

They have undertaken the continuation and expansion of services throughout the community in a variety of ways consistent with UCITY Family Zone’s mission.

First, by continuing to support the local organizations that are meeting the food scarcity needs of the community by supporting our local food pantries, reaching out to homebound seniors and others to ensure that they are receiving the food they need to maintain their health, and continuing to link together and expand our community garden network.

Second, they have initiated a workforce development program for our youth and young adults that will provide a 10-week pre-certification training program designed to build the skills needed to pursue careers in various trades that provide a livable wage. They are also connecting community residents throughout the local community apartments through a Community Ambassador training program.

“This is a very challenging time for many members of our community, for so many families,” DeHaven said. “I hope that during this crisis that we are building more relationships between people and greater understanding.”

“Many of the things that separate people from one another are not real since we all really have the same heart and are seeking the same things — economic security, raising a family, making our community safe.”


UCITY Family Zone believes that people throughout the Charlotte community are recognizing more need to address longstanding problems related to housing, livable wages, food security and other social issues that have become even more visible during the crisis.

“The problems we have in the city with children going to bed hungry, families not having stable housing and wages being low have been front and center during the crisis,” DeHaven said. “I think seeing these conditions bothers people.”

There is little doubt the impactful work being done by the UCITY Family Zone and its collaborative spirit will have a lasting affect on the families and community in Charlotte.

“I hope that we can all pull together to improve the quality of life of families in greatest need as we move forward and beyond the crisis,” DeHaven said. “My hope is for much greater good to come out of the crisis.”

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.