Hornets Foundation awards grant to organization that improves families, communities

CHARLOTTE — Thousands of dollars in grant money from the Charlotte Hornets Foundation are used to provide laptops and other technology to children with the Fran’s Kids organization.

“I was looking for something that was definitely enriched in education,” said Fran Witherspoon, the organization’s owner and director.

“It started after I had my kids,” Witherspoon said. “I have all boys, and I was looking for a qualified child care program to enroll my kids in.”

Witherspoon, a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, created Fran’s Kids day care program.

In 30 years, it grew to include six programs throughout Charlotte. Four programs remain, all centered on education

One of them is the Fran’s Kids Boys and Girls Center, which serves students, families and the community.

“Because it’s not only about the kids that we provide service to, it’s about the community as a whole,” Witherspoon said. “I’m a registered nurse, so with me being a registered nurse, you always take a holistic approach in not just working with the patient and with that child, but the family.”

Ethel Graham said she first walked through the doors with her high school diploma looking for work.

“I’ve been with her for 15 years,” Graham said.

She found a job at Fran’s and the support to earn a college degree.

“Other places where I would look for a job, they wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have the college behind me,” Graham said. “But when I look back, Ms. Fran gave me that chance.”

Witherspoon said one of her parents graduated from high school.

“My father never graduated from high school, but it was definitely instilled in me,” Witherspoon said. “If you want to be successful, you definitely need to educate yourself.”

The center’s investment in charlotte’s West End hasn’t gone unnoticed.

[WANT TO WATCH ON OUR STREAMING APPS? CLICK HERE]

The Hornets awarded Fran’s organization with the grant, which included iPads, laptops, smartboards and more.

“I came to pick my daughter up one day and I saw the parking lot was full,” parent Jason Thompson said. “And I saw the Hornets truck and said, ‘Am I at the right place?’”

Thompson first brought his son and daughter to Fran’s Kids.

“It’s very family-oriented,” Thompson said. “All her boys are here. Her boys are like bigger brothers to my children now. We took them to bigger day cares and it was just random people that we never saw before. We didn’t see them in grocery stores. We didn’t see them anywhere.”

“It would be thousands of kids that we have had some type of impact with,” Witherspoon said. “Just for them to say, ‘Hey, I was at your center and this is how you impacted me and this is how you impacted my life.’ It makes me feel good because that was my main goal when I started over 30 years ago.”

(Watch the video below: Hornets to tip off Week of Service starting Monday)