CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Giving back is good for the mind and soul.
Philanthropy, defined as “the effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations,” is generally associated with the wealthy, but one doesn’t have to be wealthy to give away some of their money, time or resources.
It could mean donating an umbrella to a homeless person or $10 for a pair of children’s shoes or recognizing a person in need and helping them plug into services.
Cover for a rainy day
Terry Tiamd, a social worker at Mecklenburg County Community Support Services, said that one Sunday she saw some families leaving a Salvation Army shelter in the rain, and they were wearing plastic bags over their heads because they didn’t have umbrellas.
Tiamd gave a mom her umbrella that day, and she decided as part of her individual development plan at work to make donating umbrellas her “out of the box activity” to help her raise awareness of homelessness.
“To see someone in the rain without an umbrella just didn’t sit well in my heart,” she said. “It was just something easy that the community could rally around to just help a person to just brave the elements.”
Tiamd started talking to WBAV personality Bea Thompson at a social function, and they decided to make it happen. Tiamd did an interview on Thompson’s radio show, and on Oct. 26, they were able to collect over 500 umbrellas.
Umbrellas will be collected until Nov. 30. Donations can be dropped off at the radio station, or at A Child’s Place at 601 East Fifth Street in the Children and Families Services Center. For more information call Tiamd at (704) 943-9553.
Bermuda Scott-Norwood (left) and Terry Tiamd are leading an initiative to collect umbrellas for the homeless.
Walking a mile in a kid’s shoes
Manny Ohonme, who grew up in Nigeria, Western Africa, used to run around barefoot.
“I was one of those kids that the world thought about as being marginalized, coming from a poverty-stricken background,” he said. “I didn’t think of myself that way.”
Ohonme recalls his first pair of shoes. Selling water at a park as a 9-year-old, he encountered a group of missionaries teaching kids to play basketball. Ohonme won the prize of a basketball contest, a pair of shoes.
“David, a missionary from Wisconsin, looked me in the eye, and he told me that I could do anything I wanted to do. The sky was big,” he said. “I rushed home to show off my new pair of shoes and forgot my bucket of water . . . You have to understand that kids live on less than a dollar a day in my neighborhood so to have a pair of shoes was like having a Mercedes Benz.”
When he got older, Ohonme received a basketball scholarship to the University of North Dakota, and he later earned a master’s at North Dakota State University. Eventually, he found his way to Charlotte, where he’s lived for 16 years. In 1997, Ohonme’s father became sick and he ended up going back to Africa. His father, who was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, died, but conditions among the continent’s children brought life to an idea.
“When I went back to Africa, there were so many kids like me with no hope living in despair,” Ohonme said. “That’s when the seed was planted.”
In 2003, Ohonme and his wife Tracie started Charlotte-based Samaritan’s Feet with a vision to inspire hope by putting shoes on the feet of millions of underprivileged kids all over the world.
According to a report commissioned by the nonprofit, “Dying Without Shoes: An Epidemic We Can Eliminate” not wearing shoes in some parts of developing countries leads to soil-transmitted epidemics.
“Something that may be just a fashion statement here is a primary need as a mode for transportation for people around the world and actually can save their lives,” Ohonme said.
Samaritan’s Feet also provides shoes and washes feet for children in the U.S. who have fallen on hard times.
“Our goal is to impact 10 million children worldwide,” he said. “So far, we’ve impacted about 3.5 million children in 62 countries around the world.”
Text the keyword SHOES to 85944 and $10 will be added to your bill at the end of the month that helps them donate a pair of shoes or call 866-833-SHOE or (704) 341-1630.
Recognizing a need
James Worthy, a Gastonia native who played basketball at UNC Chapel Hill and the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, has a motto: “Stop complaining about what you don’t have and start using what you do have.”
John Maddox, executive director of the James Worthy Foundation, said Worthy has been known for his work giving back for years to Boys and Girls Club, and the United Way.
“In 2009, he decided to ramp it up and create the full James Worthy Foundation that exists now,” he said. Maddox added that they also have the James Worthy Empowerment Center that has the explicit purpose to help “at-risk” youth, military veterans, especially homeless women veterans, build an “Earned Pathway to Success,” by helping them get over any barriers they face so that they can earn their own way.
“One reason female veterans are so underserved is because nobody wants to say who they are,” he said. “The best thing the community could do is to start recognizing these people. Even if that person because of their military pride or their personal pride doesn’t want to step forward we will volunteer to step forward for them and get the ball rolling and move from there.”