Conversations at Fletcher

Discussions with nonprofit leaders in North Carolina.
On Kindness

On Kindness

 

“Kindness, like breathing, must be constant in order for it to be meaningful.”  -Van Nolintha  

For more than two years now, we’ve brought you Conversations at Fletcher, a way for us to introduce you to the fascinating people in our tribe — the nonprofit Executive Directors that give so much of themselves in their work to make a difference, the advocates and caregivers directly supporting families to make their lives easier, and at times, we’ve even invited our AJF colleagues in for a chat.

As we reflect on the year, we’ve been most inspired by the abundance of kindness and love shared from every part of the community. So with this episode we’re trying something new. We’re sharing three stories about the transformative power of kindness.

Van Nolintha was twelve years old when he arrived to Greensboro, NC from Laos.  Navigating a new home and community while coming of age was not without its challenges. Many caregivers and mentors supported his journey as a student, including a period of tremendous growth as a Caldwell Fellow at NC State University. Now the owner of Bida Manda restaurant in Raleigh, Van demonstrates what it means to be a steward of kindness and personal growth in others. Kindness, he urges us, is to be treated as an action, not a destination.

“A lot of the time, people get caught up in the how. The reality is, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate thing. Do something small.” -Joey Powell  

Joey Powell was working in a fun job in Raleigh, volunteering his time to spend with kids “desperately in need of a night out” in his spare time. Something tug at his heart — he wanted to be doing more. He was selected to be the Executive Director of Me Fine Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to provide hope to critically ill children throughout the Triangle and their families. Three weeks into the job, his son was born with spina bifida and suddenly he was surrounded by the care that he would be providing to families in stressful situations. Kindness doesn’t have to be over-the-top gestures, Joey shows us. But we all have the capacity to do something to help bring smiles.

“Everybody, at one point in their lives, needs a helping hand…It’s so important to stop and think about those around you. It’s not all about you.” -Martina  


Martina is an inspiring woman to say the very least. With a history that involves trauma and disappointment, he had a lot of reasons to give up. Yet her story is one of resilience and the role that a community plays in lifting up others. Along her journey, school counselors, co-workers, friends, and the team at Project CATCH of the Salvation Army at Wake County played important roles in her life. Showing empathy and kindness throughout her adversity, they were present for Martina in meaningful ways. Now, she shares how this support has transformed her family’s life.

These are just three people in our tribe of thousands. It overwhelms us with gratitude to hear their stories and know that we are surrounded by a community that demonstrates kindness — whether they are policy advocates, or data analysts, or volunteers, or communicators, or service providers. To all of you, thank you for sharing love.

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Top image: Eric Silva|Flickr

Podcast Music: Lee Rosevere

Podcast Producers: Yemi Adewuyi and Shannon Ritchie

Narration: Yemi Adewuyi

Evan Walker-Wells, Scalawag Magazine

Evan Walker-Wells, Scalawag Magazine

 

“There’s a really strong idea that the South is just one thing. But if you’ve ever lived anywhere in the American South, then you know that it is more complicated than the stereotype of poorly educated people living in rural areas….It’s a stereotype that does not match the lived experience of most people in the South. We want to challenge those ideas and tell the stories of the diverse people who live here.”

Evan Walker-Wells, one of the co-founders of Scalawag Magazine, joins us this week to talk about a new publication that’s examining Southern politics and culture in thought-provoking ways. Tune in to learn more about Scalawag’s efforts to create a home for the South’s brightest thinkers, writers, and practitioners. And if you like what you’ve heard here, you can also subscribe to Scalawag to receive future publications!

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Kimberly Fisher, East Durham Children’s Initiative

Kimberly Fisher, East Durham Children’s Initiative

 

“East Durham is an area that has considerable social, economic, and health challenges. But we have to take a step back and emphasize how vibrant the area that we work in is. It’s common for a lot of non-resident experts to start with the long laundry list of everything that’s not going right in the community…but something that has struck me is the strength of community leadership in East Durham.”

Kimberly Fisher, Director of Program Implementation & Community Engagement at the East Durham Children’s Initiative, joins us this week to talk about community leadership, collaboration, and all of EDCI’s wonderful efforts to support families living in “the zone.” Now in its sixth year of operation, EDCI continues to leverage local partnerships to combat the effects of multigenerational poverty in East Durham.

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David Heinen, NC Center for Nonprofits

David Heinen, NC Center for Nonprofits

 

“As nonpartisan entities, nonprofits can infuse some really good dialogue into the election process. They can reach out to people who might be marginalized…and help get them registered to vote. There’s a lot of confusion about voter ID laws and early voting, and nonprofits can help educate the public around those issues.”

David Heinen, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, joins us this week to talk about the different forms of advocacy that nonprofits can engage in, as well as the crucial role they can play in voter education. Tune in to learn more about David’s efforts to help nonprofits across the state become better advocates for their communities.

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James Ford, NC Public School Forum

James Ford, NC Public School Forum

 

“Teachers, more than any other profession, deal with the other issues that prevail in society. What happens more often than not is that they are held accountable for them, but they aren’t necessarily given the resources to impact them…there is no shortage of good ideas…it’s the implementation piece that’s missing. We stop at the analysis and there’s no follow-through.”

James Ford, Program Director at the North Carolina Public School Forum, joins us this week to talk about the Forum’s efforts to “think and do” by combining research and advocacy to improve public education in the state. James was named the 2014 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and now works to expand the influence of teachers by equipping them to respond to the needs of their students. Tune in to hear more about James’ experiences as a teacher and his transition to working in education policy.

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Dennis Gaddy, Community Success Initiative

Dennis Gaddy, Community Success Initiative

 

“Society has made it hard to do the right thing. And when you make it hard to do the right thing, you make it easy to do the wrong thing.”

Dennis Gaddy, Executive Director of the Community Success Initiative, joins us this week to talk about CSI’s efforts to support individuals who are transitioning from prison or jail. Dennis has worked closely with the “Ban the Box” movement, which aims to make employment opportunities more accessible to these individuals. Tune in to learn more about Dennis’ story, insights, and his vision for the criminal justice system.

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Mo Green, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

Mo Green, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

“The values of the foundation will remain in place, but how we realize those values is to be determined, which makes us in an exciting time… because you’re talking about a foundation that wants to do amazing, important things for the state of North Carolina and for all of its citizens and residents. I can’t tell you what tomorrow will be at this moment, but … it will be game-changing. It will be things that I think over a period of time will help elevate the dignity and the value of all North Carolinians.”

Maurice ‘Mo’ Green, Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, joins us this week to chat about ZSR’s history, current projects, and future opportunities. Take a listen to learn a bit about Mo’s personal story and his current Listening and Learning Tour around North Carolina, or follow along with #MoWantsToKnow.

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Kate Pearce, Dorothea Dix Park

Kate Pearce, Dorothea Dix Park

 

“What I think is so amazing about this project, about this piece of property, about this opportunity, is that it really will lead Raleigh, lead the Triangle, lead the state into the future.”

Kate Peace, Senior Planner for the City of Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park, joined us this week to talk about the unique and exciting opportunity to develop hundreds of acres of land next to Raleigh’s downtown. She describes her job as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and her enthusiasm about this work is infectious! This long-term project to develop the land into a world-class park will exist for generations and Kate describes ways we can all be a part of this community effort.

Are you as excited as we are about this project?! Join Kate and the AJF team for the Destination Dix festival on Saturday, July 23! Add it to your calendar and invite friends HERE and view the map of all the features HERE. In addition to enjoying music, arts, food and other festivities, you’ll have an opportunity to share your vision for the future of property through interactive activities.

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Shannon Ritchie, AJF Director of Digital + Innovation

Shannon Ritchie, AJF Director of Digital + Innovation

 

“I hope that through my work, I can support our nonprofit partners as they take steps to be more open, embracing of change, to be more innovative and more collaborative in their work.”

We’re excited to switch it up this week by inviting our Director of Digital + Innovation, Shannon Ritchie, on to the show to tell us a bit about her work here at Fletcher Foundation. Shannon joins us to chat about what has led her to AJF, how she hopes to make a difference, and what is next for herself and for our nonprofit partners.

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Tom Ross, Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University

Tom Ross, Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University

 

What we’re trying to do at Duke is really focused on an educational effort. It’s an educational effort for the students at the Sanford school, who are really interested in public policy… but it’s also an educational effort that would reach out to the general public. We hope, over time, that we can put together some materials that would be used in schools, because I think this is an issue that people need to know about. It’s also an issue, frankly, that we need to continue discussion about constantly, so that more people know about it and so that it’s higher up on the agenda for people, for policymakers and others, when time comes to do it again.”

Tom Ross, the Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, joins us this week to discuss his redistricting education work at Duke in collaboration with Common Cause of North Carolina. Tune in to learn about their independent, nonpartisan redistricting simulation and what has led Tom to this project. 

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