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Charlotte-born nonprofit to host 1st gala

Make Your Mark volunteer Sarah Lewis, who spent five months working with street children in Ethiopia, displays Ethiopian currency. One of these bills is worth about a nickel in U.S. money, said Lewis.
Make Your Mark volunteer Sarah Lewis, who spent five months working with street children in Ethiopia, displays Ethiopian currency. One of these bills is worth about a nickel in U.S. money, said Lewis. Marjorie Dana

When Trent and Carmen Post bought a fixer-upper house in an urban area of Charlotte in 2006, the couple did not know that their decision would lead to them starting a nonprofit organization to help vulnerable children and families.

It has since expanded from Charlotte to Ethiopia.

As the couple witnessed illegal activity and heard gunshots at night, they fought back by inviting the neighborhood addicts and homeless to help with renovations on the house and by befriending children while they waited at the bus stop with their own son, the Posts said in an email.

They began hosting pancake breakfasts and played games with neighborhood children at the Wilmore Community Center on West Boulevard once each month, they said. The Posts sought to build trust and relationships with the people they wanted to help.

Eventually, they founded Make Your Mark, an organization that works to empower the children and families to escape cycles of crime and poverty.

The organization seeks to develop relationship by integrating themselves into the community, said Make Your Mark public relations volunteer Marge Densley.

Make Your Mark Charlotte also provides extras such as stuffed stockings for holidays and stuffed book bags for kids headed back to school, quarterly report card rewards such as trips to movies for students who make grades of C and above. It also hosts events such as giveaways each April and October where donated items are laid out like a yard sale, but everything is given away for free.

One woman at a giveaway cried because she was able to find Christmas presents for her children free of cost. Densley said the woman’s tears were “very powerful” for Ginger Pearson, 33, who now lives in the house vacated by the Posts when they moved to Ethiopia and continues their work in the neighborhood with her husband, Rick Pearson, 39.

Make Your Mark Charlotte also offers at-risk youth mentoring, both in weekly group sessions and on a one-on-one basis. It gives children opportunities to participate in fitness activities and service projects to cultivate a sense of ownership in their communities.

About 40 youths consistently attend Make Your Mark activities, said Densley.

Today Trent Post, 37, is executive director of Make Your Mark Charlotte, officially started in 2008, and Make Your Mark Ethiopia, started in 2012. Post and wife Carmen, 36, now live in Ethiopia. Both branches work to help impoverished and struggling children and families.

The charity will host its first major fundraiser, the inaugural Race to Make Your Mark Gala, on Oct. 24 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Speedway Club. The event will include a professional jazz band, dinner and speakers, such as a participant of Make Your Mark Charlotte who finished high school and went on to college and Trent Post, back in Charlotte from Ethiopia for the event.

Sarah Lewis, 18, of Troutman, spent the first five months of 2015 in Ethiopia working with the Posts and Make Your Mark. Lewis taught music lessons to street boys, ranging in age from about 9 to 15. Lewis said it is hard to tell their ages because due to malnourishment, many of them do not grow properly.

The biggest transformation she saw in the boys, Lewis said, was “the genuine joy that comes from having a safe place. These kids are scared all the time – they’re scared to go to sleep, they’re scared to be awake.”

The Make Your Mark compound in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, provides the homeless children with the safety that they do not usually experience, Lewis said. Many of them have been physically and sexually abused and ran away from home to escape such treatment. Others come from rural areas hoping to make money in the city. Many become addicted to huffing glue because it takes the edge off of hunger and coldness.

“The compound is a refuge. MYM is a refuge. God is a refuge,” said Densley.

A young boy Lewis worked with agreed. She did not know what to say when he told her that he had no family at all, and after a long pause, the boy told Lewis, “MYM is my family. God is my family,” she said.

Lewis said she was impressed with the generosity of Ethiopian people. “Even though these kids have little to nothing, what they are given they are eager to share with you,” she said.

Make Your Mark founder Post’s passion to help people transform their lives for the better comes from a very real place for him: he himself once faced a seven-year prison sentence for drug-related crimes.

He converted to Christianity in prison and ended up serving only 15 months of that sentence. Post calls his time in prison “God’s answer to many prayers of what it takes to change our lives.” Now Post fights for others who need transformation in their lives, whether it is a child growing up among drugs and prostitution in Charlotte or a street child sleeping under a bridge with dogs in Ethiopia.

Make Your Mark plans to expand by starting another branch of the nonprofit in the Bronx in New York City.

Marjorie Dana is a freelance writer: marjorie.dana@yahoo.com.

Want to go?

The inaugural Race to Make Your Mark Gala will be 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Speedway Club at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. Sponsorships are available and include access to the event and other perks. Individual tickets are $100. To buy tickets, go to http://myminternational.org/race-to-mym-gala/#race-to-make-your-mark-gala. For information or to volunteer or donate to Make Your Mark, visit www.mymministries.org/ or http://myminternational.org/#our-story. The organization seeks Charlotte volunteers.

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