I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte

 Community Service, COVID-19, Neighboring, Social Capital  Comments Off on I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte
Dec 052020
 

I had good reason to travel to what used to be called the Urban Ministry and Men’s Shelter, off N Tryon yesterday. You see, I was on a mission, so to speak, to collect some food items for our LHCC ministry, that the renamed Roof Above were seeking to donate, but that’s another long story for another blogpost. My GPS had me locked in on the correct address. As I drew nearer I was shocked to see what I saw on both sides of the road. Charlotte’s thriving tent city. As I proceeded, I missed my turn … because I was thinking, “my destination surely can’t possibly be down there”. This is my way of stating that I lost my concentration and thought for a brief 90 seconds car ride that I was once again in a third world African country. Back to the task at hand, I’m in the Queen City, and looking for the now hidden and seemingly distant Roof Above.

A very recent WCNC article reported ‘There are places in the third world where refugee camps are more habitable’. It’s not that simple because I know that many organizations and kind folks are helping our cities citizens, like our friends at Roof Above. Their world also turned upside down in March when people showed up along with the thousands of food packages gifted by kind neighbors. Quoting the WCNC report “What’s more a local property owner has filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The lawsuit alleges the city and county are herding homeless into tent cities that line the sidewalks, rights-of-way. It also goes on to read that the tents have crept onto private properties and parking lots along North Tryon Street.”

My point of this blog is that it’s hard to believe we’re in Charlotte, NC. While there is reportedly capacity in vacant Roof Above facilities and temporary room housing available, many of our unfortunate neighbors apparently still choose to stay in encamped in tent city. Barriers to entry into a temporary facility include COVID screening, behavioral restrictions and curfews, seemingly hurdles not low enough. There is no mass exodus from tent to housing, even with the promise of heat and utilities.

Maybe there is truth to the sentiment that your future is determined, not by your DNA code, but by your zip code. President Obama, once claimed “In this country, of all countries, a person’s zip code shouldn’t decide their destiny.”

If you need a road trip and have never seen tent city, not on TV, but live, right outside your car window, go take a drive to Roof Above, at 945 N College Street and see tent city for yourself. I am confident you’ll come away with more questions than answers. Oh, and trust your GPS and keep your eyes peeled. Count your blessings and thank the Lord you have a roof over your head this day. Thousands, not 10 miles from you, are not so fortunate tonight.

I am

Brent Morris

Executive Director, LHCC

 Posted by at 8:19 am
Oct 072020
 

Thank-you for reading our latest ministry blogpost. You will need to read to the bottom to find out about our latest award.

On the ministry frontlines, we have been walking alongside a young mother, Elizabeth, and her family for a couple of years. We have learned first-hand of the home-front struggles, firstly with COVID-19, and then of remote leaning over the past six long months, without any in-person help. Along with its technology challenges and the many language barriers trying to help her four children, three in elementary school and one middle-school student, we have witnessed the struggles of staying connected with the daily grind of being on constant Zoom calls. Peer socialization has all but disappeared and emotional support evaporated by being home.

LHCC has intervened to engage both teachers and school counselors to provide much needed encouragement and hope. We launched our Connect Hub learning program in September. This has been such a challenging year for so many. I cannot imagine the hardships for those with special needs or living with homelessness. Has the school system done these children a disservice, with delayed returned to class, especially now that the governor has opened up schools to return? How will we ever measure the impact on the COVID-slide?

Your prayers for continued wisdom, guidance and open conversations are appreciated, as we come alongside this young family, and certainly many others like them. Grateful for this ministry and opportunity to build trust and provide hope in these relationships.

Quoting one of my favorite bible teachers Chip Ingram, and one who I have listened to for years, “the big answer to our worlds chaos is not political philosophical or religious, its spiritual” Let’s keep our leaders. nation, schools and neighbors in our daily prayers. Chip goes on to say The greatest need in America and the world right now is for us to love our neighbor. Only radical Christlike love will heal racism, political division and reveal the love of the savior to fractured and hurting people. 

On a different note, LHCC is also pleased to have been awarded the 2020 Great Non-Profits award this month. Thank-you to everyone who wrote a review. If you still would like to add your voice to our work, kindly text 455097492 to 888-432-6659 and in 3 easy steps, you too can help make LHCC a great non-profit by sharing your feedback.

Appreciate what the Lord is doing through our ministry

Brent Morris

October 7, 2020

 Posted by at 12:16 pm
Jul 232020
 

Since our new normal began in March with a stay-at-home order including school closings, our LHCC programs have taken on a new course of serving our neighbors. There have been blessings setbacks and disruptions.

As schools reopen on August 17, whatever that really means, in our “new normal”, the future of our after-school program remains uncertain…

What lies before us are a few options for helping our kids similar, to how we used to do, way back before time began, in mid-March…

  1. Virtual homework help by phone or video
  2. Live evening homework help at the church as we used to go, but no groups, just one on one help
  3. Weekly daytime check-in at the church for scheduled help. Parents bring kids by appointment and receive help from a volunteer for an hour or so
  4. Do nothing for kids directly, due to safer at home protocols, and support parents instead with how to help their kids at home

There are surely other choices. Our mission at Learning Help Centers is to provide scholastic, spiritual and social supports to our under-resourced families. The degree to which we can accomplish our goals varies for each of the options outlined above. Perhaps there are a combination of choices to best meet the needs of:

  • Our families, as well as
  • The varying schedules of our volunteers and staff.

We covet your feedback. Perhaps you know of other organizations similar to ours that have had more time than we have to think this through, while we’re been busy delivery over 25,000 kids meals and planning for summer enrichment camps. We value your opinion and hope that you will join us. Thank you in advance for praying for the safety and protection of our families and for helping LHCC determine how best to serve their ongoing needs during the pandemic.

Working while it is day

Brent Morris

July 23, 2020

 Posted by at 6:35 am

There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring

 Community Service, Neighboring, Positive Encouragement, Relationships, Social Capital  Comments Off on There’s only good news here … this blogpost is about kinship and caring
Apr 052020
 

Times like this bring out the best in people. Four weeks ago, we pivoted from gathering and started delivering Meals on Wheels to the kids in our after-school program. Volunteers signed up to help as they usually do, and we increased our daily meal count for 38 kids to over 150 meals this past week ahead of the Easter weekend. We were very surprised that the need for kids meals was there from the get-go.

Requests for nutritious kids’ meals (consisting of lunch for today, breakfast for tomorrow) soon increased and requests included worksheets, chapter books, games and puzzles to keep kids stimulated and away from technology, at least for a little while each day. We were happy to oblige and meet the growing needs.

Our volunteers have gone to great lengths to stay in touch with their students and to encourage them during the stay-at-home period.

  • Phone numbers have been exchanged between volunteers and parents (and kids)
  • Hand written letters are being written by volunteers to kids and delivered by US Mail
  • Video calls to children so they can get help with their school worksheets and daily reading
  • Volunteers are reading bible stories and chapter books using FaceTime and other technology tools
  • Baked goods have been prepared and delivered for kids and adults
  • Birthdays have been celebrated with cup cakes and birthday cake
  • Moms are making meals for other moms who are no longer working and therefore staying at home

Naturally, the appreciation barometer has gone way up. Letters of appreciation, drawings and thank-you notes from children and parents are being shared with us on a daily basis.

What a healthy perspective on caring for others in an unprecedented time of need.

Thank you volunteers for your support and for coming alongside our appreciative families. This is no-doubt kinship 101 and walking the talk towards making a meaningful impact.

We’ll get through this pandemic, together.

The holy scriptures assure us that we have nothing to fear. Not even COVID-19. We are to be still and know that God is God and still in control. Psalm 46:10. Additional inspiration, comfort and hope can be found in Psalm 119:49-56

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris ED LHCC April 9, 2020

Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP

Sep 222019
 

Are you crazy busy? More to do than hours in a day to get it all done? Might we take a time out? Read on for a simple challenge this week …

A recent LHCC summer blog post called out neighboring as an art. We shared this concept with our LHCC families this past summer and the results are in. Summer camper families grew closer. Volunteers got to build deeper relationships with families and children. Parents invited other parents to our program and we got to enjoy an end of summer celebration together. It was awesome.

When serving our neighbors, are we trying to look good or do good? Inviting others to our program or opening our homes to others is a great way to show hospitality. Weary people may join us to share a meal and conversation and hopefully leave feeling refueled and refreshed. It can be stressful and awkward for both hosts and guests. We get worked up, tidying up and fed up, focusing perhaps on appearance rather than good ol’ southern hospitality.

In Luke 10, Jesus pointed this out to Martha when her sister Mary was feasting more on the friendship than faffing about the food. Christian hospitality has more to do with good fellowship than good food. In the book Crazy Busy, the author points out that there is a fine line between care and cumber. Less ado would serve better. “Feed people, not your pride.”

How about a little challenge for the coming week:

  • Slow down your hurried life. Go out of your way to greet and chat to a neighbor.
  • Be present with our family ( aka put down the phone?), and
  • Make time for daily meditation and devotion. 15 to 20 minutes, tops. This might just be the one thing strong enough to pull you away from your busyness, so you can be intentional about becoming a good neighbor.

Peace to you, take it easy and have a Mary-like week

Brent M

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Apr 072019
 

I have been tutoring at LHCC for 3 school years.  I find it to be a very worthwhile and encouraging ministry.  It is a real high to see the light go on in a child’s mind and their faces beam as they begin to grasp a concept that has been befuddling them.  It is also very gratifying to build relationships with the children as well as the parents.

This school year brought me a new challenge I was unprepared to handle.  In August, I started working with Jane (not her real name) a 5th grader.  At first, I was surprised to see how weak her reading skills were.  The following weeks I realized that even though she could barely read she had somehow been passed on year after year by the school system.  Not only could she not read, her math skills were barely at a second-grade level.  I spoke with her mother on several occasions but due to the language barrier and cultural differences, I was unable to properly communicate my concern.  Each week I became more and more desperate and frustrated in how to help Jane.  She was bringing in 5th grade homework but had no comprehension as to what to do.  Honestly, I cried in the car after each session the first couple of months.  I wanted to help Jane but felt so inadequate.

Through an interpreter I asked her mother over and over if she would arrange a meeting for me with Jane’s teachers.  The mom listened politely but made no effort to arrange such a meeting.  Thankfully the school reached out to Jane’s mom via a letter that arrived the day before our tutoring session.   Mom invited me to attend and I jumped at the chance.  Sadly, the night before the meeting I came down with the flu and was quite ill.  I prayed feverently that the Lord would allow me to be well enough the next morning to attend that meeting because unless I was on my death bed I planned to be there.  I awoke the next day and was able to get dressed and get to the meeting which lasted almost 2 hours!  I was fine during the meeting but then went home and back to bed for two more days while my flu continued after that precious 2 hour break!

During the meeting it was discussed that Jane was becoming frustrated with school and made excuses every day as to why she didn’t need to go. It also became apparent that on the present course Jane would probably become totally lost in the system and eventually drop out. Her IQ is very low and her mother is ill-equipped to help her. As a result of the meeting, it was decided that Jane was not able to continue on a mainstream 5th grade level and would be moved into an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) but still remain with her classmates.  I was able to connect with her teachers and got help in how I could best help Jane.  This was such a blessing because now Jane is working at a level that she can handle.  She is happy to do her homework and her confidence level has soared as has our relationship.  This is especially important as next year Jane will go to middle school and if not for this change and new IEP probably would have drowned in the CMS system.

Thank-you for reading my volunteer story …

D.O. ~ third-year volunteer with LHCC

April 2019

Feb 282019
 

I am scared of heights. Always have been … I used to bend my knees looking over a wall from a five-story block of flats where I grew up in South Africa. I would really rather just stay on terra-firma, feet-on-the-ground … unless I am swimming.

This past Saturday, we treated some of our community-minded LHCC families to a Rewards Day at Sky High Sports. You see, back in October, one of our community partners, Pineville Neighbors Place, organized their annual Potato Drop. Our LHCC families and children helped bag about 4,000 10 lb. bags of spuds, for donation to local food banks and low income communities. As a show of appreciation, Sky High Sports saw the opportunity to reward the children from our LHCC program for their service by inviting them to a fun morning at their awesome trampoline park, adjacent to our Pineville serve location. After the usual jumping and laser-tag activities, our energetic kids spotted the ropes course some 12 feet above their sweaty heads. They donned harnesses and then undertook some bold steps along suspended ropes and platforms. This was rather intriguing to me. Most had never undertaken this kind of adventure before. Some may have ventured out previously during our LHCC 2018 summer camp, but for most part, this was a new experience filled with trepidation. They swallowed their pride, and bravely took their first steps, guided by parents shouting encouragement from below. “Don’t let go!” they pleaded. They were dependent on a harness that seemed all too necessary all of a sudden.

We were very proud of them all. Some had tears in their eyes, as they overcame their fears and made it across the rubicon from one platform to another. Others were stage struck, unable to move a muscle. Words of encouragement were everywhere and they did the necessary with wide eyes and tensed muscles. Courage was in play, as the support from others was palpable. I knew how they felt. I had felt that way many times before as a young kid, but the life lessons were priceless. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I was just thrilled to be able to witness this experience, hold their hands as necessary, and see their delight at overcoming their fears, and accomplishing their what they thought was not in the realm of probability when they began. It is a joy to serve these families. I thank God that He made this provision for me and my family to be His hands and feet in serving our neighbors.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

February 24, 2019

 Posted by at 9:23 pm

LHCC 2018 Annual Review

 Annual Review, Community Service, Education, Family  Comments Off on LHCC 2018 Annual Review
Dec 282018
 

Our mission remains grounded in serving our families with grace and dignity.  We are less focused on the big production, that often does not adequately build relationships and has even less longer-term impact.

Our relational and educational goals for the coming school year are as follows:

  • Engage a greater number of families, and engage the whole family, as we seek buy-in to their children’s education and character-building interventions.
  • Target a pre-elementary school child group, where we can collectively make a significant impact in early-learning, before children even start school.

We have deliberately chosen to focus on families with young children, those parents have demonstrated an interest in learning English alongside their child

In 2018, LHCC was one of three organizations selected from over 30 to join the inaugural Cultivate cohort of non-profits in January 2018. CULTIVATE, an incubator and accelerator for emerging nonprofit organizations managed by Next Stage, a Charlotte-based strategy firm for nonprofits. Together with Next Stage, we have developed a strategic business plan as a means to sustaining and growing the mission and vision of LHCC for the next 5 to 10 years.

During 2018, we accomplished the following:

  • Introduced a new east-side program, serving over 70 students in partnership with Missionary Athletes International (MAI) and Albemarle Road United Methodist Church
  • Increased emphasis on family engagement and conversational English with parents of students, creating a very effective cross-cultural exchange
  • Three after-school programs launched in the fall 2018
  • 300 children served during five weeks of summer camp
  • Estimated 4,500 meals served during the summer and 3,000 during the school year
  • Highest percentage of children passing YMCA swim proficiency tests in three years
  • Improved ratio of participants to volunteers in after-school program (less than 2.5 to 1)
  • Three mission-based partnerships directly supported our daily VBS intervention
  • Average 2 hours of literacy or reading intervention per child/day during summer programs
  • Estimated 5,500 hours of literacy/reading intervention during camp ~ highest in 6 years
  • Significantly increased number of parents participating in year-round program since inception

MISSION: Learning Help Centers of Charlotte provides scholastic and social supports to families, mired in generational poverty.

VISION: In partnership with like-minded non-profits, community partners and residents, who live in the communities in which we serve, we advocate for, invest in and mobilize resources to benefit awesome, yet vulnerable, children and their families.

CORE PROGRAM SERVICES:

  • After-school homework and literacy support
  • Summer enrichment & literacy camps
  • Family stabilization and English Language Learning (ELL)
  • Family enrichment
  • Community engagement & community events and celebrations 
 Posted by at 6:00 am
Nov 252018
 

As we count our many blessings at the beginning of this festive season, we are very grateful for all of our supporters, volunteers, and of course, the families and children we have the honor of serving.  You are all tremendously important to Learning Help Centers of Charlotte.  2018 has been an exciting and transformative year as we have continued to serve many more families in our community. Especially gratifying is the growth in our south-side program at St Andrew’s, where two key changes have taken place. Firstly, we have engaged the whole family, with the result that more parent’s are getting involved in our organized activities and educational programming. The second change, which we did not make without prayer and discernment, was to discontinue transporting children to and from the program. The results have been an absolute blessing to behold. Parent’s are more vested in their children’s well-being, and are all bringing their children. It’s a win-win for all. Everyone benefits. See video

Parents were able to show their appreciation this past week and provided a hearty Thanksgiving meal for our awesome volunteers who pour into their children each week. The result? Family, fellowship, and of course food. It was a beautiful picture! Enjoy the festive season. Until next time, so much as it depends on you, be at peace with one another.