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United Way Launches United Neighborhoods Initiative to Create Environment of Opportunity for All


Begins with 3-Year Commitment of $2.4 Million into Grier Heights and Renaissance


United Way of Central Carolinas today announced the launch of United Neighborhoods, a new community-led and community-based effort that works to create an environment of opportunity for everyone by improving economic mobility. The initiative begins with a $2.4 million investment over three years into the Grier Heights and Renaissance neighborhoods.


United Neighborhoods will accelerate each neighborhood’s own vision for revitalization. The initiative focuses on partnerships with residents, community leaders, businesses and nonprofit partners, backed by multi-year funding and staff resources from United Way.


“Our goal is to improve the quality of life in individual neighborhoods,” said Sean Garrett, United Way’s executive director. “To do this, we will work neighborhood by neighborhood, while also working to improve the larger systems that serve children and families across our area.”


A recent Harvard/UC Berkeley study revealed that Charlotte-Mecklenburg was ranked 50th out of 50 among the largest U.S. cities in economic mobility. The study demonstrated that a child born in poverty in our area has very little chance of climbing out of it during their lifetime. All too often, access to economic mobility in the Charlotte region is aligned with the zip code where one lives.


United Way is addressing this issue by focusing resources at the neighborhood level and working with the residents to change those odds. United Neighborhoods is the second impact initiative United Way has launched this year to inject new funding into under-served zip codes. In March, the organization announced $480,000 in Unite Charlotte grants into 20 grassroots nonprofits and neighborhood organizations.


“We’ve all witnessed first-hand what’s been happening in our area,” said United Way board chair Eileen Little. “We know the data about how and why our most challenged neighbors lack opportunities. It is time to move past that by reaching out and meeting our fellow citizens where they are. We are taking action to drive economic mobility.”


More than 200 community conversations over two years and insights from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force informed United Way’s new impact strategy, announced in June. Focused on building stronger neighborhoods, improving systems that serve children and families, and providing basic needs support across our region, United Way’s strategic approach allows the organization to be more nimble and responsive to the community’s evolving needs.


Driving Change from Inside Neighborhoods


United Neighborhoods is a comprehensive effort built on creating better education outcomes, healthier lives and improved family financial stability.


Grier Heights and Renaissance, located at the site of the former Boulevard Homes on West Boulevard, were selected as the first two United Neighborhoods based on data demonstrating the need for support, the presence of a Community Quarterback with the infrastructure necessary to support the work, and a commitment to resident engagement.


Community Quarterback organizations will lead revitalization efforts within the neighborhoods by assessing community needs, collaborating with residents, and coordinating services and programs. CrossRoads Corporation in Grier Heights and Renaissance West Community Initiative will be the Community Quarterback partners.


Neighborhood data shows the clear need in these areas:


Grier Heights West Blvd. Mecklenburg
Median Household Income $17,171 $21,938 $56,854
Food Stamp Recipients 72% 57% 16%
     Bachelor’s Degree 8% 8% 42%
     High School Graduation 65% 69% 86%
     Student Absenteeism 20% 21% 10%
     3-5 EOG Proficiency 17% 20% 51%
Home Ownership 17% 27% 57%
Violent Crime (per 1k residents) 20 16 4

(data from Char-Meck Quality of Life Explorer)


“While the data is stark, these are two communities where neighborhood-led revitalization efforts are already underway, and we believe United Way can amplify that process,” said Laura Clark, United Way’s chief impact officer. “United Neighborhoods is about working with Grier Heights and Renaissance to advance the priorities residents identified for themselves.”


In partnership with the two Community Quarterbacks, United Way has already begun addressing identified priorities and creating volunteerism opportunities to engage the broader community in the United Neighborhoods work. Those interested in hands-on volunteering can register now at


The funding process will also be driven by volunteers, including United Way’s Community Grants Panel and Community Quarterback representatives. Grants will focus on improving education, health and financial stability. Funding requests through an RFP process will be due in January, with grants to be announced in June.


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About United Way of Central Carolinas

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in our region, improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of local communities in Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Mooresville/Lake Norman, and Anson, Cabarrus and Union counties. To get or give help, call 211 or visit


About CrossRoads Corporation

CrossRoads Corporation for Affordable Housing and Community Development ( is a nonprofit organization in partnership with the residents of Grier Heights and numerous other stakeholders of Grier Heights in the revitalization of the neighborhood. CrossRoads’ vision is that the quality of life of the residents of Grier Heights will be dramatically improved with a constant focus on justice to those residents throughout the process.


About Renaissance West Community Initiative

Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI) is a nonprofit organization leading the revitalization of the former Boulevard Homes public housing site into a vibrant village called The Renaissance. The initiative uses a holistic community redevelopment approach and works with a coalition of community partners focusing on multiple critical factors including mixed-income housing, educational opportunities, youth and adult development programs, health and wellness services and commercial investment. RWCI is responsible for developing, coordinating, and evaluating a comprehensive array of services and supports, such as health care, out-of-school-time programs, and workplace skills development to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Renaissance West Community Initiative was formed in the fall of 2012 through a collaboration of community leaders, the Charlotte Housing Authority and other public and private partners.  It is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors. For more information, please visit

Source: UWCC News Release
Date: September 7, 2017