Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s Lynne Wooten, Wilmington City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, and WARM’s JC Lyle greet volunteers unloading 18 palates of donations.
Why do nonprofits work in silos and how can we unite to recover from Florence?
Note: this is the first article in a two-part series.
The aftermath of Hurricane Florence brought out the best in our community, bringing neighbors together to help clean up yards, provide food and water, and comfort each other.
Likewise, now is the time for nonprofits to partner with each other and with organizations from the government, business and faith communities to deliver our region the comprehensive hurricane recovery that they expect and deserve from us.
In every community, there are a variety of nonprofits that focus on the same issues, yet have differences in desired outcomes, service requirements, or other fundamental mission ideals. Often, nonprofits are resistant to collaboration if it seems the effort required to work together is greater than the time or money saved. Sometimes it is a lack of personnel or, perhaps, a perceived competition for resources – both volunteer and financial – that keeps us focused so intently on our individual projects.
Our individual missions, whether it is housing, health, veteran’s issues or conservation, boil down to one basic goal – making our community better. In my view, the ultimate test of any partnership is whether working together will allow us to do more than we can separately. Hurricane Florence recovery efforts have already provided such opportunities.
Here’s one example:
The story of our remarkable six-organization collaboration started with Juicy Fruit Party Dragon
, a uniquely-named charity located in Ocean County, New Jersey that focuses on many needs of their community. The founders were shopping for items for hurricane victims at Lowe's Home Improvement in Tom’s River when the store manager overheard them. The store had 18 pallets of clearance merchandise that was about to be thrown out. He donated all those supplies on the spot!
The founders of Juicy Fruit Party Dragon accepted the generous offer with no clue how to get 18 pallets into the hands of those in need of them – over 500 miles away! They found the number for Mayor Saffo’s office in Wilmington and were quickly referred to WARM.
It was quite a thrill to get a call from New Jersey offering much-needed building supplies, but we had to arrange transportation – something we have never done. Fortunately, my friend, Bob Skane, owns Matchmaker Logistics
. When I called him about the dilemma, he was beyond excited to arrange for a truck to transport the goods… at no cost to WARM!
The second problem was storing the supplies. WARM’s limited storage facilities are maxed out right now, so we had nowhere to put the materials. I also had no idea what we were getting or if we would be able to use it all.
We have partnered with Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity
in some exciting ways over the years. WARM rebuilds and repairs homes for low-income homeowners at no cost, while our local Habitat affiliate focuses mainly on placing families in newly built homes with zero-interest loans. As you can imagine, both groups use tons of construction supplies and truckloads of tools.
So, I called my counterpart at Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, Steve Spain, and he offered space at their warehouse to store what we need for as long as we need. Any supplies that cannot be used for recovery efforts will be sold in Cape Fear Habitat’s local ReStores to help fund their programs.
It was uplifting and inspiring for us all to see the 18-wheeler roll in from New Jersey and know that many people in our region will benefit from this unique partnership.
Part 2 of this series will highlight the long-term recovery groups forming in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.
Combining her professional experience in the Cape Fear region’s housing and real estate for-profit sector and volunteer experience with disaster recovery and housing-related nonprofits, JC Lyle (formerly Skane) was hired in 2009 to serve as the executive director of Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM). WARM is a grassroots nonprofit whose mission is to make homes safer by completing urgent repairs, accessibility upgrades and storm damage. Under her leadership, WARM has steadily grown from serving 44 households in 2008 to 155 households in 2016. Her public recognition includes Wilma Magazine's 2012 Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category, a 2014 Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNC Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and invitations to speak at NC Center for Nonprofits Conference and NC Affordable Housing Conference. She will graduate in May with her Master of Business Administration at UNC-Wilmington.