November 26, 2012

Common Heart creates a ‘revolution of kindness’

Going against popular culture, Keith Adams, co-founder of Common Heart, isn’t striving to make his organization great.

Going against popular culture, Keith Adams, co-founder of Common Heart, isn’t striving to make his organization great.

Just being good is his goal for the Union County food pantry, thrift store, tax preparation and benefit assistance nonprofit.

“So often the ‘great’ gets in the way of the ‘good’ because the very simple good things that could encourage people and change their lives, we don’t do – because we’re busy looking for that one great thing,” Adams said.

As a result, Common Heart is doing more good than Adams ever imagined.

For Thanksgiving, more than 400 volunteers packed and delivered 580 boxes stuffed full of feasts to feed hungry Union County residents. That’s about 8,000 pounds of turkey, over 3,200 pounds of potatoes as well as fresh and canned sweet potatoes, ingredients for a green bean casserole, jello, canned fruit, a pie shell, pumpkin pie filling and rolls.

The charity started six years ago as Common Cupboard when Adams, his wife, Deborah, and their friends Barbara Chandler and Harry Walden started a small food pantry in the Adams’ garage.

“We were all involved in pantry work, but we realized if we pooled our resources, we could help more people,” Adams said.

Five moves later, Common Cupboard now delivers groceries to 280 families each month out of their Indian Trail location. They’ve recently started a second walk-in food pantry in Stallings that is seeing about 100 families a month..

A few years ago, to help offset costs and offer affordable clothing and household items, they added Common Things Thrift Store to the mix, where shoppers can find gently-used items at bargain prices with proceeds channeled back into Common Heart.

Last year, Common Heart CONNECT was a group offering tax preparation for lower income folks, help with Medicare and Medicaid forms, and other services.

For the first four years, Adams viewed Common Heart as a sort of charitable hobby where he worked mostly behind the scenes – until he lost his job.

“It was a Wednesday afternoon. I was getting ready for a sales convention. I remember asking God, ‘When will I get to do what I really want to do?’ Turns out, his answer was ‘Friday.’

“That’s when I got laid off. It was a shock, but it was fine. It gave me the opportunity to develop the vision I’d had for years and to go back to school and get my degree,” Adams said.

Now he spends each day leading Common Heart and its more than 100 volunteers who are feeding the hungry, assisting the poor, giving folks the resources they need to succeed, and helping to change the world for the better a little at the time.

“I’m an encourager of a small revolution of kindness. That’s what we built our organization on. We reach out in kindness, and that kindness changes people’s lives – both ours and the friends that we serve. We’re motivated to demonstrate God’s love in a practical way,” Adams said.

“We want to see more smiles and less fear. We want to see more compassion and more encouraging people to do good. We want to see that kindness change the culture of our community.”

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