Families Forward Charlotte provides mentors, workshops and essentials for families in need.
by Michelle Boudin
Every Christmas, Carrie Christian and her husband supported a family with kids at a low-income school in Charlotte.
“Every year, a friend of ours at a Title I school would contact us, and we’d buy presents. A few years ago, she told us about a family who was homeless because the mom was in remission from cancer and the medical bills were too much,” Christian says. “And I just started thinking, with all the great organizations in Charlotte, it seemed like there was a gap in the system.”
Christian immediately went to work trying to bridge that gap. She started on social media. “I asked for support from friends. We ended up founding this organization and came up with the concept of providing essentials; connecting people with resources, education, life skills and workshops; and really focusing on mentorship and coaching families toward economic mobility.”
Christian officially formed Families Forward Charlotte in 2017 with the intention of working with just two families.
“But as we got closer to the families, we thought if we got more volunteers, we could help more people.” That first year, Families Forward worked with 20 families, pairing each of them with a mentor. “That’s where the magic happens,” Christian says. “The mentorship is what’s unique about our organization. We’re really a support to them emotionally.”
The volunteer mentors spend four to six hours a month working with the parents. They ask each family to set financial goals that will motivate them — anything from saving enough money to signing a child up for soccer or taking the family on a vacation.
Over the last five years, Families Forward has worked with 125 families. The nonprofit has a staff of five and 60 volunteers.
Still, Christian says they’re looking to assist even more families in need, and the organization is working to open a program hub so that families have a consistent place to come for workshops. Christian is currently scouting for the right location.
“We really just work to be a support for our families, and we know it works,” she says. “I really can’t believe the growth we’ve seen in the last five years and how much we have learned. I pinch myself every day that I get to do this work.” SP