United Way of Central Carolinas announced a $100,000 gift from Charlotte residents Andrea and Sean Smith in support of Lake Arbor apartment residents who received notices to vacate the property beginning Saturday, Aug. 31. This action follows a lengthy, ongoing landlord dispute about unsafe living conditions, poor property management, and a neglectful landlord that resulted in a class action lawsuit against the apartment complex owner.
When the Smiths learned about United Way’s effort to raise $350,000 by August 31 through its Critical Need Relief Fund to help Lake Arbor residents, they felt compelled to respond and made a commitment of $100,000 to support the families who were beginning to relocate over the Labor Day weekend.
“The generosity of Andrea and Sean speaks volumes about their commitment to our community and will assist us in our role to help our partner agencies ensure that Lake Arbor families receive the help they need during this very difficult time,” said United Way of Central Carolinas President and CEO Laura Clark.
Many residents still had nowhere to go as the August 31 deadline loomed and were notified that the apartment owners would extend the date for them to vacate, giving them more time to be assessed for eligibility for possible relocation assistance. The Smiths recognized that the immediate financial impact to the families forced to move would be devastating.
“The issue in our city with affordable housing is impacting so many people,” said Sean Smith. “Hearing about these families being displaced and potentially homeless really hurt our hearts. We want to see families stay together, for kids to stay in school, and for people not to have to worry where they are going to sleep at night.”
Representatives from six United Way partner agencies, including Charlotte Family Housing, Community Link, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, The Salvation Army, and Urban Ministry Center are working together to find a solution for the residents.
Within days of receiving vacate notices, residents began participating in assessments to determine their most critical needs and eligibility for financial support. A second effort to complete the assessments is now underway, with Community Link taking the lead in coordinating the process.
“Our mission at United Way is to improve economic mobility and get help to those who need it the most,” said Clark. “There’s no single agency that can do what we can do, and this is a great example of how United Way supports collaborative efforts to address the community’s most pressing needs.”
United Way continues to receive calls from individuals and the business community wanting to help Lake Arbor families and has extended the deadline for donations to its Critical Need Relief Fund through Saturday, Sept. 7. To date, nearly 150 gifts totaling $125,000 have been made toward the $350,000 goal.
“We will begin disbursement of funds to our partner agencies this week, working closely with county and city officials who we expect to announce their commitment of financial resources in the coming days,” Clark added.
For their part, the Smiths have been involved with other efforts to make a positive impact on the local community, including support for revitalization in the Renaissance West neighborhood. When United Way of Central Carolinas launched its United Neighborhoods program in 2017 to focus on investing in under-resourced neighborhoods through a coalition of community stakeholders, the Smiths felt a clear connection to the agency’s approach and commitment.
“As citizens we believe in the work that United Way of Central Carolinas does for all in the community,” Andrea said.
The Smiths both feel a sense of responsibility towards building strong communities in the Charlotte area. For Sean, their gift made to United Way to help Lake Arbor residents is also a way to honor the memory of his late mother, Maureen Smith, who died in January 2017. As an active volunteer at Crisis Assistance Ministry, she instilled within him the importance of giving back to the community.
“Her love and dedication to that mission was a huge part of who she was and that has been passed down through the generations in our family,” Sean said.
As the issue of affordable housing in Charlotte continues to be at the forefront of discussions among the public, business community, and government officials, Andrea and Sean Smith hope their recent gift to United Way’s Critical Need Relief Fund inspires others to do what they can to make an impact.
“What an unbelievable difference your donation would make to the families of Lake Arbor,” Andrea said. “Any dollar amount will help, and time is of the essence. You can change someone's life for the better.”
Donations to the United Way Critical Need Relief Fund benefitting Lake Arbor residents will be accepted through Saturday, September 7.
Visit https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/HELPCLT or text HELPCLT to 71777 from your mobile device and receive a text to the direct link. For donations by check, please call the United Way office at 704-372-7170 for details.