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GreenLight, a nonprofit with a plan to fight poverty in Charlotte, hires local leader

A young family participates in the Family Independence Initiative, a program instituted by GreenLight in Boston, which empowers families to move out of poverty through connections, choice and capital.
A young family participates in the Family Independence Initiative, a program instituted by GreenLight in Boston, which empowers families to move out of poverty through connections, choice and capital. GreenLight Fund

The Boston-based nonprofit GreenLight Fund has hired a new executive director for its Charlotte division – one who hails from the Queen City and has a passion for giving back to her hometown.

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Carrie Cook Courtesy of Carrie Cook

Carrie Cook wants to use her position to address the city’s opportunity gap. She said the best way to do that is to bring to Charlotte nonprofits already proven to positively impact people in poverty.

GreenLight Fund announced early last year it was coming to Charlotte and was committed to give $3.5 million over five years to address social and economic issues. The fund works with community leaders to identify one issue to address annually and brings a proven nonprofit to the area to address that problem.

Charlotte is the sixth city the fund has chosen to focus on. GreenLight has also helped tackle various problems in Boston, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay area, Cincinnati and Detroit.

The fund will work with the incoming nonprofit and city officials to scale the nonprofit’s work to fit the city it is moving to, which helps ensure success, said John Simon, co-founder of GreenLight.

The fund is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, created after a 2015 study by Harvard University and UC-Berkeley revealed that Charlotte’s poor children are least likely to escape the cycle of poverty out of 50 U.S. cities.

Over the next year, Cook will create a selection advisory council, and they will identify the highest-priority needs, gaps and issues in Charlotte, as well as research nonprofits with proven records in addressing those issues. Cook plans to choose a nonprofit near the beginning of 2019.

She said examples of issues that could be addressed include early childhood education readiness, affordable housing and workforce development.

GreenLight has recently launched its Becoming a Man initiative in Boston, which focuses on fostering values, goals and important life skills in young men from at-risk communities. The program attempts to improve academic outcomes and to decrease involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Simon said he is confident Cook will accomplish the mission of building a better Charlotte by following the GreenLight process.

“She is one of the next-generation leaders that we see emerging in Charlotte,” he said.

Cook was raised in the University City area of Charlotte and identifies herself as a proud Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools alum. She’s worked with former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, and her most recent position was with the Charlotte Chamber.

“We want people to have a voice, and have ownership, and be empowered to rise out of poverty, and I really think that’s really what this is about.”

Caroline Metzler: 704-231-5316, @crmetzler

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