Dedicated Grassroots Community Organization – Charlotte, North Carolina
On any given day, you can find familiar faces filling the air with laughter in a parking lot off of North Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte. Under red canopies, a group clad with masks sets up tables with pans of desserts and other food. People talk and occasionally dance.
Deborah Woolard has celebrated birthdays, holidays and other special occasions here. She calls the people she serves her family.
Woolard, founder of Block Love Charlotte, has been helping fill the needs of her “block family”. Every day, near the corner of Tryon Street and Phifer Street in uptown, Woolard feeds anyone who lines up to be served.
Her idea to give back and help others relates to her own experiences with homelessness. “I was once homeless myself on multiple occasions,” she said. “I really want to be that hand that I myself once needed. I want to reach out to others.”
“When a lot of nonprofits had to pull back because of Covid-19 … we still remained out here because the need doesn’t stop just because we’re in the midst of a pandemic,” she said.
During the week, Block Love volunteers serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to those in need. While the group is known to set up in uptown, volunteers serve people throughout Charlotte.
Volunteers have been consistent despite donations going up and down. Woolard explained that it was hard to get donations in the beginning. She believes the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 played a role, but donations from private citizens increased once they saw the group’s impact.
Donations have also come via an Amazon Wishlist, which Woolard says “has really been a Godsend.” Her team has made up shortcomings through collaborations with other advocacy groups, like the Community Hub in north Charlotte, and churches who step up by donating staples like juice, milk and bread.
“Anytime we don’t see those financial donations pouring in, we still have physical items and are able to make really good use,” she said.
“We will be out until we get a hold on this pandemic. Until people realize that homeless people are humans. They look just like you and me,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about spreading love throughout this city one block at a time.”
Charlotte Observer, Q City Metro, Power98.com, WSOCTV.com