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Sharing Strength and Opportunity With Anson County Residents

Angela Caraway walked into a Kroger store in 2007 for a routine grocery trip, but left with the idea to start The Caraway Foundation.

While walking through the store on a random aisle, Caraway saw back-to-school supplies covering the shelves. She then heard a voice telling her to buy the backpacks that were on sale, but not just one or two. The voice was telling her to buy every backpack available. Caraway was confused, but as a woman of faith, she chose to listen. 

As soon as she got home that evening, Caraway drew up plans to create The Caraway Foundation. 

What began as an idea focused on students and seminars on college preparedness has now grown into an established organization supporting not only students, but senior citizens and individuals experiencing chronic illness as well. 

The Caraway Foundation is a part of United Way of Greater Charlotte’s regional investment in Anson County, which has a tailored strategy focused on housing stability, food security, childhood literacy and mentoring programs.

The Caraway Foundation serves the Anson County community through its Village of STRENGTH™ program, Anson Youth Leaders Academy (AYLA), summer camps and digital equity efforts. 

The focus at The Caraway Foundation is on the Village of STRENGTH™ program, which provides resources to patients, survivors and caregivers to those with chronic illness (i.e. cancer, stroke, heart attack, lupus, etc.). Resources include educational programs, transportation assistance and support groups.

“Our focus is on seniors and individuals living with a chronic illness, because of my journey as a cancer survivor,” said Caraway. 

Part of the Village of STRENGTH™ program is their community garden, set up behind The Caraway Foundation’s building. A group of senior citizens helped build the boxes for a raised-bed garden, then planted and are taking care of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce and more. 

“I’m really excited about it because they’re happy. And that makes me happy because it has given them something to do,” said Caraway. 

“One of our participants, her cancer has come back, but this project has given her life. Just the fact that I’m able to provide something for them that puts a smile on their faces, that’s all that matters to me.”

The Village of STRENGTH™ program ties into their digital equity work through providing a technology program to teach senior citizens basic computer skills.

The digital equity work also includes the Refurbished Computer Award, where The Caraway Foundation provides a discounted, refurbished laptop to a student who is between third-12th grade and does not have a working computer in their household.

The Caraway Foundation supports students through the AYLA, which introduces middle school students to volunteerism, community outreach and community engagement. AYLA also provides opportunities for the students to visit a variety of places, meet with local government officials and more. 

Caraway plans to use United Way funding to extend mentorship to the AYLA, hoping to serve at least 30 middle to high school students – both male and female – with their own mentors.

United Way funding will be used to establish the mentorship program by gathering mentors, hiring therapists to train the mentors and budgeting for the cost of food and activities once the foundation is settled.

“We have operated off zero and and we have done great things having a very low budget and low funds, so we’ve come a long way. Having United Way as a partner is exciting and it’s important. It has helped us gain more trust in the community,” said Caraway.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity for people to just know about us.”

This year, The Caraway Foundation plans to add a “buddy program” to their Village of STRENGTH™ support groups to further help those experiencing chronic conditions. 

The other, larger goal for the Village of STRENGTH™ is to do what Caraway calls a “Survivorship Cruise,” bringing together survivors of chronic illnesses or cancers as well as caregivers of these conditions on a cruise ship. The purpose of the cruise will be to represent the survivors’ and caregivers’ resiliency and how they are moving forward despite crashing through a few waves along the way.

The Caraway Foundation has had a huge impact on the Anson County community, not only through its programs, but also through its in-house food pantry, working spaces, soon-to-be office spaces and the welcoming smiles you receive as you walk into the building.

“Because of having cancer and being told that I could have died if I had waited a month or two, I wouldn’t be here today, and I feel like I have a greater purpose,” said Caraway, “And this greater purpose to me is The Caraway Foundation and being impactful – intentionally impactful.”