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Community Leadership: Life Project

Community Leadership is a series of posts that highlight Community Quarterbacks from each United Neighborhoods geography. A Community Quarterback is a lead partner agency embedded in their community and dedicated to engaging residents, building local leadership and coordinating services among the funded nonprofit partners.

Veronica Washington was laid off from her corporate job in 2010, but was able to quickly get involved locally and follow her dream of helping others, becoming Life Project’s director in 2012. Washington was drawn to the unique community Life Project serves and the strategic location of its headquarters at Northside Christian Academy. 

Washington works alongside program director, Jenna Knox, and together they manage strategic outreach and make their ideas for the organization come to life.

Life Project aims to transform residents’ lives through tailored partnerships with local churches and nonprofit partners. Knox described Life Project as the “hub” of the I-85/Sugar Creek Rd. corridor and explained that their goal is to listen to residents and intentionally wrap around them in a holistic way, whether they are providing mentorship programs, healthcare services, workforce development support or simply a safe space of refuge.

“Life Project is really about doing life with the community around us and helping them to know that we’re right here all the time. We are a part of the church, but we’re the hands and feet; we’re actively moving, we’re actively doing life with you and no matter what stage of life you are in, we’re going to walk beside you in that,” Knox said. 

“If it looks like you’ve been out all night and you’re exhausted on a Sunday morning, we’re going to put you on our bus, we’re going to bring you to campus and we’re going to feed you. We’re going to wrap our arms around you during our Sunday morning service and we’re going to continue to walk and do life with you. Not everybody is afforded the opportunity to do that, so we’re super thankful to have partners and people internally that will stand firm when standing alongside people no matter what stage of life they’re in.”

Life Project is the community quarterback for the I-85/Sugar Creek Rd Corridor, one of the communities funded through United Way of Greater Charlotte’s United Neighborhoods initiative for place-based work. Through United Neighborhoods, United Way works alongside the community quarterback to convene and provide funding to nonprofits whose services address needs identified by residents.

“It has been such a blessing to be able to serve with real dollars now that we didn’t have before,” Washington said, “it’s allowed us to go deeper, we’ve been able to serve better, we’ve been able to uplift so many people because of our partnership with United Way.”

In the future, Washington and Knox want to be a fully-resourced hub; they want to be a place where families and individual residents can come and have access to whatever resources they may need.

“This is a resilient community in a dynamic corridor and the community is not defined but the story that is being told. This is a very smart, very engaged, very strong community and the residents are fighting to be like everyone else,” Washington said. 

“We’re thriving, but the narrative is that we’re not. We are rebuilding the corridor and it’s going to be very different in the next five to 10 years.”

The I-85/Sugar Creek Rd Corridor faces a variety of challenges, including food insecurity, healthcare and education access, the digital divide and workforce development, but Washington and Knox are committed to creating and sustaining long-term change in the area.

“I think that we’re on the cusp of greatness, though that may seem cliche. The challenges we face give us a unique opportunity to prove everyone wrong and show that just because this is happening here now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay like this,” Knox said.

“I believe that United Way funding is going to play a pivotal role in showing the transformation from where we’ve been to where we’re going. And I’m really excited for that.”

Learn more about the work United Way is doing through United Neighborhoods today.