Numbers are powerful.
27: That's the number of people who traveled together to Uganda ten years ago to serve communities displaced by war.
658: That's the number of bricks the group made in one day for one of their construction projects. It was a record for the most bricks made in one day. It was also a number that stuck with those 27 people as they returned to the U.S., where they pledged to continue serving communities in need.
And that's how Project 658 was born. It started with a T-shirt sale to raise funds for the displaced communities in Uganda, and grew into a nonprofit serving the needs of Charlotte's international community.
The 2019 State of the City Report at ForCharlotte.org states that about one in seven Mecklenburg County residents were born outside the United States. And Charlotte's immigrant community includes approximately 17,000 refugees—people unable to return to their home country due to fear of persecution—who have moved to Charlotte since the mid-1990s.
Project 658 meets the varied needs of this large and growing community through four channels: relief, reform, development and service.
If you can't meet your basic needs, you can't thrive. That's why Project 658 offers practical relief programs to provide meals, clothes, health care and furniture to Charlotte's international community. The 658 Center provides 25,000 square feet of safe and supportive space where people can find stability, independence and spiritual health. The adjacent Smith Family Wellness Center, provided by the Steve Smith Family Foundation, is a free health clinic offering services to meet the physical and emotional needs of participants.
For Project 658, reform is an investment in the next generation to break the cycle of poverty. Through early childhood development, afterschool enrichment and character-based sports programs, Project 658 is supporting the youngest members of Charlotte's international community.
Once the basic needs are met, families can start reaching for a better life. Project 658 is there with opportunities for self-sustainability through ESL classes, culinary arts school, a sewing instructional series, church leadership classes, Bible study groups, job training and resume workshops.
The culture of service that led 27 people to make 658 bricks in Uganda is still going strong at Project 658. Whether it's community beautification, a family partnership, or mentoring, service projects are available for every age, skill, and interest level. Find a current list of opportunities here.
At Project 658, nothing is more important than the relationship between the person serving and the person being served. "Everything we do is aimed at relational growth," says Sarah Atwell, Associate Ministry Director at Project 658. "That's why we love long term and invested volunteers so much! For our families to get to know and trust the same face over time is the biggest asset we could ever have."
Project 658 serves thousands of people each year, but when it comes to restoring hope to refugees and immigrants building a better life, the most powerful number is one.
One person deciding to jump in and help. One person making the choice to take action. This is where change begins. And Project 658 makes it easy to get started. Here are three concrete ways you can help Project 658 with their most immediate needs:
1. Donate toward the $5,000 needed to provide a citizenship class in the fall of 2019. Donate here and select Project Support as the Campaign.
2. Come to Street Soccer Fest on Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22. This family-friendly event supports the international and homeless athletes in our community who are achieving their goals, on and off the pitch.
3. High school volunteers are needed this summer for day camps, Monday through Thursday, 10am to 12pm. Contact Project 658 at (704) 733-9934, email@example.com or fill out a registration form here.
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.