With Charlotte growing rapidly, we’re reminded in ways big and small that now’s the time to contribute to our city. As many people as there are in need, there are also many charitable organizations and Charlotte philanthropists. Knowing that we are stronger as a community than we can ever be as individuals, we hope that this list will encourage you, too, to brighten the lives of others.
These ten charitable organizations and Charlotte philanthropists may surprise. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, you can be assured that each one is giving us all the chance to do our part in helping build a stronger community and an even better city.
1. Kathy Izard
Any list of Charlotte philanthropists would be remiss not to include Kathy Izard, who closed her successful design business years ago to devote her time to the Urban Ministry Center. Her work at the Urban Ministry resulted in Charlotte’s only Housing First program. Likewise, it led to the construction of Moore Place, which offers housing and support for the chronically homeless.
2. Pam Kelley
After years of investigative reporting work for the Charlotte Observer, Pam Kelley returned to a story that had haunted her since her 1980s: that of Keith Lamont Scott, a African American man living in West Charlotte and swept up in the 1980s cocaine epidemic. Her fixation resulted in the publication of a book late last year, titled Money Rock, that blew the roof off stratification and segregation among Charlotte neighborhoods and the very real consequences of inequity.
3. Michael Marsicano
Michael Marsicano has been improving the Queen City since he accepted a position as the head of the Arts and Science Council in 1989. Ten years later, after growing the Charlotte ASC to one of the largest endowed in the nation, Marsicano transitioned to the Foundation for the Carolinas where, as CEO, he exponentially increased its assets and contributions while deftly allocating funds for maximum impact.
4. Cam Newton
You already knew that Cam Newton as the beloved Carolina Panthers quarterback, but did you know he is also the founder of a non-profit organization? His foundation works to even the playing field, so to speak, for disenfranchised Charlotte- and Atlanta- based youth.
5. Jim Noble
Jim Noble is the culinary and philanthropic mastermind behind King’s Kitchen, the uptown non-profit restaurant that serves locally-sourced, Southern-inspired dishes, and behind the Charlotte Dream Center. Noble funnels restaurant proceeds into providing food and job training to Charlotte’s homeless population.
6. Ophelia Garmon-Brown
Last year’s recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Ophelia Garmon-Brown has made Charlotte a healthier city. She co-founded Charlotte’s first federally qualified free health clinic, served as president of the Mecklenburg County Medical Society, volunteered at the Charlotte Pregnancy Care Center, was medical director for the health clinic at Salvation Army’s Women’s and Children’s Shelter, and co-chaired the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force.
7. Girl Talk Foundation
Since the organization’s beginning in 2002, Girl Talk Foundation has empowered young women aged 11-16. Girl Talk Foundation teaches participants how to be confident, smart, proud, and powerful through facilitated dialogue. The organization also implements character building programs that develop self-awareness, competence, and social competence.
8. Anna Spangler Nelson
Nelson’s service is multifaceted. She serves on the UNC Board of Governors, stewards her family’s philanthropic foundation which invests heavily in nonprofits that serve children, and has a role as co-chair of the Project LIFT board. Over the years, she’s been called “the city’s most influential person in public education.” Project LIFT stands for Project Leadership & Investment For Transformation. Today, LIFT is part of the Central 1 Learning Community of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). This community, comprised of 29 schools, is well-poised to make dramatic gains for teachers, school leadership, and students.
9. Circle de Luz
Circle de Luz is a Charlotte area-based nonprofit that works to empower young Latinas through mentoring, scholarship funds, and holistic programming. Since its inception in 2007, the organization has grown from an entirely volunteer operated program to a professionally staffed nonprofit. Charlotteans should keep an eye on Circle de Luz, particularly as the Latina population continues to grow in Charlotte.
10. Birdsong Brewing Co.
In Charlotte’s ever-growing selection of craft breweries, Birdsong is a standout – not only because it was one of the first, but also because of its staunch commitment to supporting local nonprofit initiatives. Birdsong charitably donates to and fundraises for a selection of local 501(c)3 organizations. That is, when they’re not resetting industry standards for sustainable beer production.