Jim Rettig  1/25/54 – 01/17/17

Jim Rettig  1/25/54 – 01/17/17
Jim Rettig  1/25/54 – 01/17/17

by Bob Norfleet

Jim Rettig passed away last week. He leaves behind two sons and a sister. Jim was originally from Michigan. He came to Greensboro looking for a job after the recession put him out of a work. When I first met Jim at the Interactive Resource Center in 2015, he was homeless, jobless and broke. He also had no driver’s license which put him at a serious disadvantage. At that time, Jim was living at the Weaver House, a temporary homeless shelter operated by Greensboro Urban Ministry.

Jim had a couple of skills which he hoped would put him back into gainful employment. He was an artist and web designer.  Unfortunately, neither field was hiring in Greensboro during or even after the economic recovery.

Jim joined the staff of the Greensboro Voice in 2015. He was very involved with all discussions, attended every staff meeting , wrote several articles, and would frequently cause laughter with his dry humor. Jim created and submitted several items of whimsical art for the Greensboro Voice which reflected that humor. A couple of years ago Jim also designed the honor card for the IRC’s year end fundraising program which was a sketch he did of the Greensboro Bus Depot.

In early 2016, Jim was approved for housing and soon afterwards he secured a part time job with UNCG helping people connect with medical benefits.  Things were looking up for Jim but in 2016 he suffered a stroke. After making so much progress in his life, Jim wasn’t going to let it get him down and before long he’d bounced back and was his old self again.

Jim was always grateful, even for the smallest kindness shown to him by others.  He was especially grateful for finding and joining a new church where he met and made many new friends. And he always seemed to find humor and hope even when he was struggling to find work and living in homelessness.  I will miss Jim, and most of all I will miss his ability to find humor in even the most dire moments of life.

 (The Interactive Resource Center or IRC is a day center for people experiencing homelessness or near homelessness.)

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Community Ventures: A Non-Profit Serving “Not-For-Profit Social Ventures”

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by Bob Norfleet

Many small not-for-profit social ventures attempt to set up shop but fail, not because of a lack of passion or vision but due to a difficulty in gathering startup capital. In most cases, it’s difficult to get funding because there are so many charities begging for the same dollars. In order to be successful and attract donor dollars, a charity quickly learns that it should be certified as a “non-profit” by the Internal Revenue Service. It’s expensive to hire a lawyer, get incorporated, apply for and receive the official 501(c)3 non-profit certification letter by the IRS. When a non-profit finally receives IRS certification, it may then seek funds from donors who desire the additional rewards of a tax deduction for their donation. If your charity has not been certified as a 501(c)3 organization, your donors will not receive a tax benefit.

The person who wants to start a charity must either have the money for 501(c)3 certification or beg for dollars from friends, friends-of-friends and/or set up a crowd-funding network to raise the start-up capital. Crowd funding, if done correctly can be beneficial but few people know all the strategic moves that must be taken during the process to reach their goal. The most successful crowd funding programs are those which are associated with a charity that is already certified as a 501(c)3 non-profit. Some crowd funding organizations will not help you unless you are already a certified non-profit.

This is where Community Ventures, Inc (CV) comes to the rescue! This company has already done all the early heavy lifting. It is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to partner with start-up social ventures which are not certified as 501(c)3 organizations. The win-win of this partnership is that the start-up contracts with “CV” to accept tax deductible donations from the project’s donors. Some donors then get a tax benefit depending on their tax status. Community Ventures, Inc pays out funds to the project as needed from time to time using the dollars in the project’s treasury. The costs to the social venture is a small initial set-up charge plus a small management fee depending on the degree of management the charity’s program requires of CV. That fee depends on the project and the support the venture needs to get started.

If you are a struggling social venture or charity and need a partner to jump-start your fund-raising program, you might want to make application to Community Ventures, Inc. Send an email to the following email address and “Channelle” will discuss the application process and if initial approval is made, she will set up an interview. You can also email Community Ventures, Inc to be added to their email contact list so they can let you know about their special programs on social entrepreneurship and supporting living wages for those who are underemployed in the Greensboro area.

Here is their email address: “channelle@communityventuresinc.org”

Westover Serving at Grace

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Continued Series on Volunteerism
by Stephanie Thomas

Between 5:30 and 7:00 pm on the 2nd Wednesday of each month you will find over 20 volunteers from Westover Church serving meals at Grace Community Church. They have come to serve the homeless and the less fortunate, people who are hungry. They serve from the heart. From the youngest volunteer to the oldest, each person happily pitches in.

Before the first volunteer or guest walks through church the door at Grace Community, Brenda Hancock, a member of Westover Church has been working tirelessly for weeks to make sure there will be enough food and volunteers to make the meal go off without a hitch.

It’s 5:30 and mostly quiet as the volunteers and the food begins to come in through the side door. The tables for around 250 dinner guests and the preparation tables are already set up. The volunteers greet each other and do a bit of catching up. Then everyone goes into the dinning room to bless the food and pray for the guests who are at that point lining up at the front door. Inspirational music plays in the background as the volunteers respectfully move around the room stopping to pray at each table for the guests who will be sitting there. Next the group of volunteers gathers for directions, one more prayer is said, and just before the guests are allowed in, the volunteers retreat to a large hall adjacent to the dinning room.

This is when the excitement begins. There are four stations set up in the hall with 4 people at each station. In assembly line fashion they fill the plates with chicken, mashed potatoes, bread and green beans. Then there are other volunteers who take the filled trays and place them on a long table in preparation for serving, plus there are those who clean up spills, fill drinks, and put peach cobbler in the desert bowels.

The guests participate in a short service in the dinning area before the meal is served which includes gospel music, a message and a prayer.

Once the service is over the food is served. Each volunteer takes their responsibility seriously, carrying trays, pouring drinks, passing out food, cleaning, and taking care of issues that might come up like someone missing a fork or a special plate needed for a child. And Brenda is there giving direction and making sure all is running smoothly.

As soon as the meal is served, the desert comes out, people finish eating, and then in a flash the cleaning begins. Everyone helps out, clearing plates, washing tables, putting away the chairs and tables, throwing away the trash and taking it out, and making food bags for the little ones. Within an hours time 250 men, women and children are fed, everything is cleaned up, and at 7:00 pm you’d never know anyone was there. It’s pretty amazing.

Why do these volunteers come back month after month after month to help people they don’t know and in some cases won’t see again? Some have told me they come because they want to live as they believe Christ would have them live, others feeling blessed by God simply want to give back, and one young man told me he came because he knew if he didn’t have the love and support of his family he might have found himself in this kind of need.

It was a joy to serve with these caring and generous individuals.

Please consider volunteering in your community to help the homeless and those in need. Together we can make a real difference in people’s lives. To volunteer for serving meals at Grace Community Church contact Virginia Cornell at the church email address: thecity@gracegso.org.

“Working with Meals at Grace is always a humbling reminder that any one of us could lose a job and lose a place to live,” continued Brenda Hancock. “Even though some weeks are more difficult than others to serve in this ministry, it is important to me to extend God’s grace and love to a group of people in our community who really need it.”

The Gardens at the IRC

by Stephanie Thomas

Frequently, the “outside” of a homeless shelters is stark, but the Interactive Resource Center (IRC ) at 407 East Washington Street in Greensboro NC is an exception to the rule. The IRC is landscaped with gardens and trees. What’s even more remarkable is that the gardens and trees produce food including vegetables, herbs, strawberries, black berries, and blue berries, plus 12 different types of trees including apricot, pear, plum and fig. When the gardens were first created, 4 1/2 years ago, they were primarily vegetable gardens. Over time, there was a realization that vegetables not only required high maintenance, and needed excessive amounts of watering, but they were not as useful to people with no means to cook or store them.

I dropped by the IRC one Friday morning to meet with Charlie Headington, the head of the Greensboro Permaculture Guild.  When I arrived, Charlie and his fellow volunteers, Robb Pritchett and Audrey Waggoner, were busy pulling weeds. It was only 11:00 am but hot and everyone had already built up a sweat.

Charlie showed me around the gardens, pointing out particular plants, and explaining what they were. I recognized the fruit bearing plants of course, but many of the plants which looked like weeds to me were in fact there for a particular purpose. The gardens are all natural and rather than using pesticides, they use particular plants and even certain bugs to help keep the gardens healthy.

Not only do folks, like those at the IRC shelter who are without homes, need fresh food, but many of Greensboro’s residents live in food deserts and would benefit greatly from these public gardens. (A food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food).

The Greensboro Permaculture Guild has a number of public gardens in Greensboro, maintained by their 25 active members. They have gardens at St. Elsewhere, The Children’s Museum, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church and the public orchard on Church Street, just to name a few.

As I watched the volunteers hard at work, I wondered if the IRC guests knew why these gardeners were there or if they appreciated the work. There were a number of individuals sitting outside so I walked over and asked one of the gentlemen what he knew about the gardens. He answered my question when with enthusiasm and pointed out many of the plants and trees, showing a particular fondness for the fig trees.

“It’s good for the people who come here. It’s good for their soul. They need beauty as well as food. And these gardens provide both.” – Charlie Headington