Cover Story: Critical Need Response Fund - Part Two

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Another generous gift from well-known family to help a very critical need.  The Levine family donated $1 million to a fund they started last year.  The idea is to get others to give, have the fund grow, then dole out the money to local agencies.

The Levines set it up last year, because they saw needs in our area not being met.

People think the economy is improving, and there are signs that it is:  the stock market's up 50% since March for example, but for many the need is greater now than it was this time last year.  Last year was bad.. you can imagine this year.

Record numbers last year outside Charlotte's Crisis Assistance Ministry as the markets tanked and the economy went into a downward tailspin.

Now says Carol Hardison it's even worse.  "Crisis" offers emergency financial assistance, pays rent and utilities and is the last step for many before eviction and being homeless.

Hardison remembers the foreboding words she uttered a few weeks ago.  She said, "I told the directors of the two largest homeless shelters in Charlotte three weeks ago that I am concerned we will be sending you hundreds of new families this winter."

To risk running out of money themselves two months ago, Crisis Assistance Ministry cut in third the amount it was awarding needy families.

Worries were the cuts in assistance might send some out onto the streets.

Now thanks to the generosity of Sandra and Leon Levine Crisis Assistance Ministry and dozens of other organizations will be able to keep providing help this winter.

"This has given me hope and we're going to be okay," said Hardison.

Last December, the Levines gave $1 million seed money to set up the Critical Need Response Fund and challenged the community to contribute as well.

Almost $3 million was raised and distributed out to 34 different organizations.  They're doing it again this year.

Laura Meyer with the non-profit Foundation for the Carolinas who's taking care of all the administrative duties gratis says every penny raised will go to help the needy, they're hoping to top last year's total.

"We'd like to do well over that because the need is that much greater extrapolating from the unemployment we need to do 50-percent better," she said.

Unemployment which was at 8% last year.. now tops 12%, sending more people than ever out seeking help and sending some to homeless shelters.

Carson Dean directs the Men's Shelter of Charlotte.  He says, "The thing that kinda really disturbed me right now is we're seeing people that we've never seen before and they're telling us that they're finally coming to the shelter because of unemployment and all of their other options have run out."

The Men's Shelter for example started picking up numbers as winter set in last year and those numbers have stayed high all year.

To help, go to WEB EXTRAS on the home page and there's a link to the Foundation for the Carolinas which is collecting money for the Critical Need Response Fund.