The events of this past weekend are so upsetting, and we as a staff are talking, reflecting, and learning. In the face of such hatred, our work feels small. As part of our core values, we strive for equity, we focus on the marginalized populations, and we are working together to amplify the voices of those who represent our community, but it’s not an overnight fix. We can’t change the structural barriers overnight, we can’t make all of this change today, and we certainly don’t know everything by ourselves. So we’re left frustrated, and unsure. But maybe, as our work is multiplied, through the impact that so many of our nonprofit partners are making, it isn’t small, and we can help it be bigger, and connect us all. Maybe, it’s more important than ever to invest our resources, our time, our energy, on the good things that are happening in the world, and here at home.

We’re actively trying to live into that, and truly be connected. Last Friday, as part of a very comprehensive retreat, all of our staff got out from behind our desks, hopped into our cars, and visited four of our nonprofit partners to learn more — about their work, about who they are helping, about the stories that led them to provide these critical services, and about the very real issues impacting the people in our community. We’d like to tell you more about them from our own perspective…

The barn at Good Hope Farm in Cary, NC

Good Hope Farm

[contributing staff writer: Tina Bailey, Grants Coordinator]

As the grant coordinator here at Triangle Community Foundation, I’ve been very careful not to get too attached to nonprofits to assure unbiased due diligence is performed with each organization. So going on a site visit was reason for me to cringe. In an effort to adhere to my desire of non-attachment, I choose the Good Hope Farm to satisfy staff assignment and retreat requirements. This would be easy , I thought — I don’t like the outside nor do I like farms.

Big mistake!!! The Good Hope Farm destroyed my plan. I walked onto a plot of land that provided opportunity for new farmers, especially women and minorities, a chance to establish businesses that because of economic restraints and knowledge, could have been non-existent. The land, filled with historical structures, left me honored to work for an organization that contributed to a project like this. With all the adversity in the world today, it was enlightening and rewarding to see our organization contribute to a platform where individuals regardless of economic or ethnic background could come together and contribute to the well-being of others, regardless if they look like them or not.

The goal of Good Hope Farm is to honor Cary’s agricultural heritage while increasing the community’s access to farmland and connecting its residents to local, healthy food. The farm helps connect new farmers — especially women and people of color — to affordable land, shared equipment, and market opportunities. This project is the result of a unique partnership between Cary’s local government, Piedmont Conservation Council, The Conservation Fund, NC Community Development Initiative, and Conservation Trust for North Carolina. They received funding in 2016 from the Foundation through Our Focus: Environmental Conservation.

Refugee Community Partnership

Refugee Community Partnership

[contributing staff writer: Fran Wescott, Executive Assistant & Office Manager]

I had no idea all that these refugees brought with them to their new home. Trauma, isolation, separation from even the most basic familiar comforts like food and family. A detailed picture was painted for us of the circumstances from which these families have come so that we might better understand how the trauma that precipitated their relocation influences the management of a new life once here in NC. After being in refugee camps for 2 years, these refugees are whisked away, often away from their families, and assigned to foreign host locations not of their choosing. Arriving with little to no facility with the language, and having been separated from their livelihoods and culture, the people with whom RCP works face local challenges made more complex by the circumstances and trauma they suffered before they arrived. In only two short months, refugee families are expected to find work that provides a living wage, affordable housing, and they must navigate communities that are already suffering what we have come to know as “food deserts.” A community dearth of all three of these necessities — livable wages, affordable housing, and access to healthy foods — has led many refugee families to sink precipitously into poverty, finding themselves disengaged from public or private safety net services, and suffering social isolation.

RCP’s flagship program, Bridge Builders addresses both the immediate and urgent needs of these families while also establishing a relationship with the family, charting and helping them achieve long-term goals that will lift them and their families out of isolation and poverty. Executive Director Maddie Hayes spoke eloquently of the need to assure that the community of people whom they serve aren’t “infantilized”, opting instead to empower that community with a voice and authority over identifying their own needs and strategies to address those needs. What a phenomenal opportunity for Foundation staff to be reciprocally influenced and informed by a forward-thinking grantee. I think that we can find from RCP’s rich work cues for our own equity work to assure that the community the Foundation serves is not only represented in our governance but empowered to identify and work toward sustainable solutions to shared local challenges and opportunities.

Refugee Community Partnership (RCP) is a community-driven organization working to build unique, holistic, and comprehensive support infrastructure for relocated families. RCP’s Bridge Builders program, which — through a social justice lens — mobilizes neighborhood residents, service providers, teachers, students, families, and refugee community leaders into a vibrant support infrastructure, was the winner of this year’s Innovation Award. They have also received funding through Our Focus: Community Development.

Durham Symphony Orchestra (Maestro Curry)

Durham Symphony Orchestra

[contributing staff writer: Ken Baroff, Director of Donor Development]

Storytelling. It’s a basic human need, it promotes understanding, and it’s the foundation upon which communities are built. So it was a real gift to be given the opportunity to hear directly from a handful of our nonprofit partners, each reflecting one of our four focus areas, last Friday morning. I personally found it difficult to choose just one because the list pulled together by my colleagues in Community Engagement was pretty compelling. I eventually decided to visit the Durham Symphony for one main reason: I certainly knew of the organization, but I didn’t really know anything about the organization, which is kind of embarrassing to admit. I have lived in this area for almost 35 years and have enjoyed many Durham Symphony performances, including every Pops in the Park at Trinity Park for almost 20 years (our house was right next to the park, so we provided power for the PA system — and we also hosted an annual wine and cheese gathering on our front porch), so I just assumed this was like most other community orchestras.

I was wrong. Maya Jackson, the executive director, articulately and passionately shared a truly transformative mission: to authentically reflect, engage, and involve the entire Durham community in performances (this was my personal interpretation). This is being reflected in everything from the performances (venues, music selection, etc.) to Board and governance — and Maestro Curry is involved in every aspect. Not surprisingly, there are significant challenges, including a razor-thin annual operating budget and operations staff of one (Maya), but in spite of the challenges, I left the discussion feeling incredibly energized — and knowing that the Foundation’s support of the Durham Symphony has made a real difference for everyone in the community.

The Durham Symphony is a local orchestra made up of local musicians and directed by the North Carolina Symphony’s own William Henry Curry. Performances throughout the year offer a blend of classical, family, pops, and holiday specific concerts. The Durham Symphony received funding through Our Focus: Regional Cultural Arts.

North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation

[contributing staff writer: Sarah Battersby, Scholarships & Donor Services Officer]

Although I typically, in my work with the Foundation, focus on students moving from secondary into post-secondary education, the importance of grade-level reading by 3rd grade hit home for me this past spring when my eldest niece failed her 3rd grade reading EOG. At our group’s meeting with the NC Early Childhood Foundation on Friday, we learned that not only do they work to address the low levels of students reading on grade level both statewide and nationally through the NC Pathways to Grade Level Reading and the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading, their staff also tackles even broader issues. They have put together a framework of 60 indicators that move the needle on grade level reading, which consider the whole child and their environment — including their economic security and housing stability, their health and development, and their family and community.

The NC Early Childhood Foundation’s small-but-mighty team focuses on promoting understanding, spearheading collaboration, and advancing policies to ensure our state’s children are on track for success. As a part of grade-level reading, the key aspects they target are increasing school readiness, reducing chronic absence, and stemming summer learning loss. They emphasized that brains are built, not born — and through working collaboratively to address issues affecting all children birth to age 8, we can also help students in our state be more prepared for post-secondary education (and scholarship applications!), careers, and civic participation. A vision we can all get behind!

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is the state lead organization for the National Campaign for Grade‐Level Reading (CGLR), a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children from low‐income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Through our collaboration with United Way of the Greater Triangle, NCECF has been funded through Our Focus: Youth Literacy.

Other Contributors: Meg Buckingham, Director of Marketing & Communications and Lori O’Keefe, President and CEO