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United Way of Central Carolinas raised more than $267,000 during a special appeal to the public in support of Lake Arbor apartment residents, who received notices to vacate the property beginning August 31, 2019.


In early September, United Way announced it would accept donations to its Critical Need Relief Fund, with proceeds benefiting Lake Arbor families.


Within days, nearly 170 donors came together for a common purpose in pledging their financial support in helping Lake Arbor families, including a $100,000 contribution from Charlotte residents Andrea and Sean Smith, a $10,000 gift from Foundation For The Carolinas, and a $10,000 donation from an anonymous donor.


“This shows the power of collective giving among individuals,” said United Way President and CEO Laura Clark. “When we come together to help our neighbors, everyone benefits because we are creating stronger communities.”


Support from the business community


United Way also received support from the business community. Lowe’s Companies offered a $50,000 donation, making it the first major corporate gift received by United Way in support of the Lake Arbor effort.


“We are very fortunate to have a business partner like Lowe’s, who understands that in a crisis situation our corporate partners can play a significant role in meeting the community’s needs,” said Clark.


Headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, Lowe’s is the second largest home improvement retailer in the world and serves more than 18 million do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me, and professional customers each week through more than 2,200 home improvement and hardware stores across the United States and Canada.


“Lowe’s believes everyone deserves to have access to safe, affordable housing, and we are proud to join with United Way on this critical need,” said Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s executive vice president of human resources. “A stable home empowers more children and families to achieve economic mobility, and helping the residents at Lake Arbor is one step toward strengthening our community’s commitment to addressing the serious challenges around affordable housing in our area.”


Support from local government


Equally important in meeting the needs of Lake Arbor residents is the support at the city and county levels, which further impacts and complements the work being done by United Way partner agencies. The City of Charlotte committed $75,000 toward United Way’s Lake Arbor effort.


“The City is proud to be part of the community collaborative that is assisting Lake Arbor residents,” said Mayor Vi Lyles. “We are working with a sustained focus toward improving economic mobility and creating more affordable housing, so we can reduce the recurrence of similar situations for all of our Charlotte neighbors.”


At the Mecklenburg County level, providing support for Lake Arbor residents also highlights the need to explore ways to meet the growing need for affordable housing and the impact it has on families in surrounding areas.


To this end, the County may provide emergency assistance funding, housing vouchers and supportive services valued at approximately $850,000 to help Lake Arbor families. The financial assistance will be coordinated through Community Link. Supportive services and housing voucher assistance will be administered by Mecklenburg County and Supportive Housing Communities.


According to County Manager Dena R. Diorio, this help could include relocation assistance drawn from Emergency and General Assistance Funds (a $1.8 million-dollar fund that helps low-income families with sporadic emergency needs), as well as housing vouchers and supportive services for families with the greatest financial need and/or families who have an open CPS case.


“Along with our partners, we want to try and avoid these families becoming homeless,” said Diorio. “If we can help them now, our hope is that it gives them the time they need to find permanent, affordable housing.”


A different approach, a real impact


The crisis at Lake Arbor underscores the hard work underway surrounding affordable housing in the Charlotte area. Representatives from six United Way partner agencies, including Charlotte Family Housing, Community Link, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, The Salvation Army, and Urban Ministry Center continue to work together to find a solution for Lake Arbor residents.


A second round of assessments were done to determine residents’ eligibility for financial support and other services, with Community Link taking the lead in coordinating that process.


What is unique about the response to Lake Arbor is it provided individuals, local government, and businesses the opportunity to support their neighbors through a different approach at United Way—one that will have a real impact on the families who are affected. Last week, United Way began the process of disbursing funds to its partner agencies.


“Our job is to support our partner agencies by giving them the financial resources they need to help people in their time of need. This is what we do at United Way,” said Clark. “Our primary goal is to get help to these families as quickly as possible, so that they can begin the process of rebuilding their lives.”