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United Way will distribute $16 million with help from local neighborhoods

Boarded up houses
David Boraks
Neighborhood in west Charlotte

Charlotte’s United Way plans to invest $16 million in agencies and nonprofits throughout the region. Much of that money will go to groups picked not by United Way, but by community members.

United Way has changed its approach over the past few years to focus on specific neighborhoods and give them the resources to call the shots. United Way’s Director Laura Yates Clark said this year’s round of grants goes to 132 groups working to end poverty and improve economic mobility.

“The grant recipients are primarily neighborhood-based and grassroots organizations, and many are receiving their first-ever grant from United Way,” Clark said.


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Last year the nonprofit gave $1.3 million to three neighborhoods. This year $4.9 million will go to 50 neighborhoods. Most of them are in areas with high rates of poverty and unemployment that the city is trying to strengthen through its Corridors of Opportunity initiative.

“So often when you see in areas that are changing, people come into the community and say, ‘Hey, this is what you need and this is what we're going to do for you,’ said Melissa Gaston who leads the North End Coalition, which includes members of eight neighborhoods. “United Way said, ‘Nope, we're not doing it that way.’”

She says the coalition surveyed residents to determine what services they felt the North End needed and interviewed groups to decide where to invest. They decided on groups providing legal advocacy, job skills training, and a mobile food market.

The United Way also received $5.4 million in largely federal funds through the city to help provide housing assistance, including rental subsidies. Those federal funds account for most of the increase in grants.

The nonprofit is also changing its name. No longer will it be United Way of Central Carolinas — the name will now be United Way of Greater Charlotte.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.