Warren Cole Smith speaks on sustainable charity efforts in communities at Power in Partnership

Published 12:05 am Friday, December 14, 2018

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — At Thursday’s Power in Partnership breakfast, Warren Cole Smith spoke about how giving back can provide a meaningful outcome for the community.

Smith used several examples of communities across the nation who had programs to help citizens evolved to help more over a longer period of time.

Smith talked about Cross Purpose in Denver, Colorado. The city had a coat giveaway, but some of the coats would be picked up to be sold in bars for liquor. The churches agreed to create a program that focused on improving the lives of 100 people living in poverty.

“They were mitigating some misery and suffering in the moment but not seeing a lot of change, so they decided what if we went deep with 100 people,” Smith said. “In fact, it started with 15 and we give them real vocational training. We work alongside them. We stuck with them for six months. We gave them transitional housing. We decided to try that with 15 people to raise enough money to spend $20,000 per person.”

Starting in 2014, 92 percent of Cross Purpose participants are employed. Their goal is to help 1,000 people living in poverty in Denver, according to Smith.

He also spoke about Pride 4 Parents, which gave an opportunity for parents to purchase Christmas presents after working in the community.

Smith said the program was a response to giving children toys for Christmas.

“Every Christmas, they would give away toys to children,” Smith said. “The first year was fantastic. They gave away these toys to kids and the kids were blessed by it, their parents were blessed by it, they had gifts that they put under their Christmas tree. The second year came around and the parents that got the toys the first year were back and they wanted more.”

He said after implementing a way for parents to work to receive presents, they had pride.

They started to have a sense of entitlement about the toys,” he said. “They started arguing about which toys that they were going to get.”

Another example was renovating 10 blocks in the downtown of Opelika, Alabama.

He said they learned plenty of lessons through this process.

“Restoration does not equal revitalization, merely restoring buildings without some sense of what’s going to go on in those buildings and managing and engineering will not solve problems of the community,” Smith said.

He said the town also has a vision and someone to carry out that mission.

“Towns are like a wheelbarrow — someone has to push it,” Smith said. Leadership matters. You can’t just have a great plan and vision, even though that matters, too. Well if that’s the case, we just have to find the right leader, right? Find one great leader and that will solve all of our problems. John says leadership does matter, but so does followership.”

He said to pay attention to the first follower of the leader, using an example of someone who is dancing alone may seem odd but as soon as people join in, it is considered a movement.

“The guy is a lone nut until other people start imitating him,” Smith said. “He said never underestimate the value of the first follower, because the first follower is the guy that turns a lone nut into a visionary.”

He ended the speech with what individuals and towns should ask themselves to flourish:

  • What is good in Rowan County that we can promote, protect and celebrate?
  • What is missing that we can contribute?
  • What is evil that we can stop?

Rowan Chamber president Elaine Spalding thanked Smith, saying “This is the perfect message before the holidays and we really appreciate that.”

The next Power in Partnership is Jan. 17 on the 2019 Economic Outlook.