BB&T division uses grant to help YWCA
Friday, Jun. 06, 2014

BB&T division uses grant to help YWCA

    - YWCA
    BB&T volunteers, from left, Ligia Mason, Spencer Harrell, Mesa Kaplon, Karla Cornish, Rachel Tooley and Tishauna Gillard, deliver "greatest needs" items to YWCA Central Carolina’s Women in Transition program as part of their Lighthouse Project.
    - YWCA
    BB&T volunteers, from left, Mesa Kaplon, Karla Cornish, Rachel Tooley and Spencer Harrell, deliver "greatest needs" items to YWCA Central Carolinas as part of their Lighthouse Project.

BB&T’s life insurance division in Ballantyne is jumping right in to help the community.

The BB&T division is using a Lighthouse Project grant, which is funded by the bank’s corporate office, as well as its sizable volunteer force to help the YWCA Central Carolinas.

“This is a very special gift,” said YWCA CEO Kirsten Sikkelee. “To have a volunteer group that will bring that much in terms of financial resources to the table as well as human resources is not something that happens every month at the YWCA.

“I think it speaks to how they are as a company and how much they care about making a positive difference in their community.”

Susan St. John, a vice president with BB&T, said the group chose to work with the YWCA because its work lined up with several of BB&T’s core values, including helping clients achieve economic success and working to make the community a better place.

“The people I met there, you can see them striving to giving back to the community,” St. John said. “The entire culture of the YWCA is just a hugely positive place to be.”

The YWCA, located on Park Road, oversees two transitional housing programs that strive to move people who are homeless into permanent housing. The organization also runs 11 youth learning centers around Charlotte, which host after-school care and summer programs.

The Lighthouse Project grant will be used for several YWCA projects. Part of it will help pay for renovations to the YWCA’s Southside Learning Center, which volunteers from BB&T will work on this week.

BB&T volunteers will install carpet, paint and update the learning center’s bathrooms.

“They kinds of things are not typically in our operating budget,” Sikkelee said. “Obviously, we always want the environment of any of our programs, whether it’s for youth or families or children, to reflect how we genuinely care about the people we’re serving.

“The whole goal is to make it be extremely warm and attractive.”

The YWCA’s learning centers focus on literacy, and the Project Lighthouse grant will pay for books for the 360 youth served in the YWCA learning centers.

Project Lighthouse grants BB&T employees four hours of volunteer service time, and more than 60 of the Ballantyne division’s 100 employees have signed up to help with YWCA projects.

While many will help with the learning center renovations, others already have started buying and delivering items from the YWCA’s “greatest needs” list for its Women in Transition and Families Together programs.

The two programs are operated on the YWCA’s Park Road property. Each program offers transitional housing in on-site buildings for single women and for families who are homeless.

The greatest needs items are placed in welcome baskets for new residents, who often can’t afford cleaning supplies, towels and other basic living necessities.

“This is to help them not have to spend up front money they are really trying to budget to move into permanent housing,” Sikkelee said.

Some are moved to tears when they see the welcome baskets, she said.

“It’s so much more than they expected,” Sikkelee said. “It speaks to them about how the larger community cares for them.”

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her with at

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