Duke Endowment gives $80,000 to Charlotte area congregations helping struggling school kids

Duke Endowment gives $80,000 to Charlotte area congregations helping struggling school kids

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - An $80,000 grant from the Duke Endowment is the latest community response to a Harvard study that showed low income people in the Charlotte area tend to stay mired in poverty all their lives.

The money is being awarded to the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church in Charlotte, with the intention of using public schools as a way of transforming the lives of children and families impacted by poverty.

Called Congregations for Children, the program targets four focus areas: Understanding Poverty and Advocacy, K-3 Literacy, Basic Needs and Family Engagement.

Individual churches will engage at differing levels with local schools, based on the needs identified by school officials.

The state's other United Methodist Conference based in Raleigh has a similar program. The statewide effort began in 2014, the same year a study by Harvard and the University of California showed upward mobility for children in poverty is more difficult in Charlotte than in any of the country's 50 largest cities.

As a result of the study, a series of charity and faith programs have been unveiled to help with graduation rates and job skills training. Among the big name contributors to the cause is Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who made a $500,000 investment earlier this year in charities working with literacy in the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools.

The $80,000 grant was part of $10.3 million in 26 new grants provided across the state by the Duke Endowment in Charlotte to United Methodist organizations. The Duke Endowment is one of the largest private foundations in the Southeast, and focuses its money on child care, health care, higher education and rural United Methodist churches.

The Duke Endowment has distributed more than $3.3 billion in grants since its inception in 1924. The foundation shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.