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Howard Levine gives $500,000 to help CMS students in trauma at home

Howard Levine has supported a growing number of causes in the community, including education and critical needs charities.
Howard Levine has supported a growing number of causes in the community, including education and critical needs charities. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Former Family Dollar stores CEO Howard Levine is donating $500,000 for a new school program that will help Charlotte students facing traumatic events at home.

Called the Crisis Care Initiative, the new program is being launched by Communities in Schools as a means of stabilizing the lives of students “experiencing severe circumstances.” The goal of the program is to keep students in school when they’re going through events such as homelessness, the arrest of a parent or the death of a sibling.

“Our community has complex challenges and we need thoughtful, bold, innovative ideas,” Levine said in a statement. “I hope this gift can help start a movement to add deeper support for students in crisis and I hope others in the community will join the effort.”

The Howard R. Levine Foundation – headed by Levine and his wife, Julie – will spread the gift out over five years. Their foundation’s focus is helping low-income people and struggling families in the Charlotte area.

“This generous gift means that our most vulnerable students will receive the deepest level of support,” according to a statement from Molly Shaw, executive director of Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. “Students and families in crisis need immediate stabilization support as well as deeper interventions.”

The gift comes at a time when community leaders are seeking solutions to a study that showed low-income people in Charlotte are less likely to climb out of poverty than low-income families in other large U.S. cities. It is being referred to as Charlotte’s “economic mobility” crisis.

Levine’s gift is part of the solution to the problem, Shaw said.

Communities in Schools will have three Intensive Case Managers at three Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this year. The goal of the Crisis Care Initiative is to serve as many as 10 schools by the year 2020.

The agency’s other education programs help more than 6,000 students annually in 45 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. An additional 28,000 students in the county are supported through school-based programming and volunteer-resource coordination.

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