Philanthropy Spotlight: Neighborhood Hope Brings the Light to Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the toughest major cities in the United States for children born into poverty to climb out of it as adults. According to a 2015 study from Harvard University, out of 100 cities, Charlotte ranks 97th. Out of 100 counties, Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, is number 99.

Charlotte landed 50th out of 50 major cities in upward mobility.

The study found that that a child born into the bottom 20 percent of income in the city had just a 4.4 percent chance of making it to the top 20 percent of income. More than 1 in 7 (15.2%) of Charlotte residents live below the poverty line, and one in five children in Mecklenburg County lives in poverty (~50,000 kids).

Josh Meadows knows this.

Meadows, a community leader and 30-something dad of two, has been involved in the Charlotte area to help provide the children there a sense of hope for more than a decade. His non-profit organization, Neighborhood Hope, partners with vulnerable neighborhoods and communities in Charlotte to break negative cycles of poverty.

“We want to create the best support system possible for the families and the kids, so they can live greater stories with their lives,” he said

The essence of Neighborhood Hope started when Meadows started volunteering at a kid’s program at a local church on Wednesday nights. His co-worker Cathy invited him to hang out. The program consisted of playing basketball with the kids, providing them with a meal, and giving them an overall safe space to exist. Each evening would end with a short Bible study or motivational speech.

Growing up in a single-parent household, Meadows recognized the support system needed to help provide some structure to kids who needed it. But one day, the church pastor said the program had to be down. Meadows asked to keep it running.

Over the next half decade, Meadows did everything he could to help keep the Wednesday night program running. He bought the pizza and the basketballs. He found anywhere he could to bring the kids together and give them a place to play.

During its growth to become a non-profit, earning the trust of the neighborhood was vital for Neighborhood Hope. “It was just people going in and caring about other people—and trying to show up and listen and learn,” Meadows explains.

It has since expanded to include after-school programs, summer camps, tutoring sessions, and offering access to trauma counseling for hundreds of kids. And Meadows is constantly trying to get those from other communities involved to help bridge the upward mobility gap.

Insight Global Gets Involved

Meadows met Todd Lindgren, an Insight Global account executive, while attending the same church. After learning more about the program, Lindgren wondered how he—and Insight Global—could help. And that turned into the Charlotte office raising funds to take kids and families from Meadows’ program shopping for Christmas.

“Because of Insight Global’s help, we were able to take 40 kids on a shopping spree to Target,” Meadows remembered. Some families received hundreds of dollars of gift cards to shop for themselves. Others got more than $1,000 to spend.

Some Insight Global employees showed up to shop with the kids. One student said they’d never been to Target before. “That was some amazing perspective,” Meadows said.

Be the Light to Charlotte

Meadows knows closing the upward mobility gap in Charlotte isn’t an overnight fix. It takes a long time to make a dent, and there are “deep, ingrained systems and setups in Charlotte that make it really hard for people who grew up in poverty to get out.”

But showing up with purpose and getting others in the community to do the same can change things.

“We want to help the kids and the families,” Meadows said. “But I think also it’s fun to watch volunteers and donors and organizations like Insight Global fulfill their purpose just by working with us.”