South Charlotte

Good grades and behavior earn a trip to help the homeless

Trublue student Matthew Shields hands out lunches in March.
Trublue student Matthew Shields hands out lunches in March. Team Trublue

Charlotte nonprofit organization, Team Trublue, will take 25 students from local schools to the streets of Atlanta to hand out supplies to the homeless. The semiannual trip on Dec. 10 is part of the group’s mission to educate, reduce poverty and decrease violence in the community.

“It’s one thing to tell them about it, but it’s another thing to show them,” said Team Trublue Youth Coordinator, Yulonda Johnson. “We want them to see and (experience) making a difference firsthand.”

During the daylong trip, students will distribute 1,000 bag lunches, as well as purses, toiletries, blankets, pillows and clothing to homeless individuals living at the Greyhound bus station, Hurst Park and the city’s homeless shelter. The students will also visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site and have dinner together before returning to Charlotte that evening.

“The children learn various things from the trip such as the importance of setting and accomplishing goals, giving back and sowing seeds through hands-on community service,” said Johnson. “They also learn the measure of a good leader is in how well you serve and are able to recognize that they chose to take a stand and become part of the solution.”

The men and women of Team Trublue, which stands for “Together reunited under brotherly love until eternity,” started the organization to take a stand of their own against the violence they were witnessing in their neighborhoods.

Team President, Will Adams, who lost his son to a senseless act of violence, orchestrated a decision among the community members to create a movement that would have a positive impact on the youth and the community.

“The goal was to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Johnson.

So in December 2014, Team Trublue was registered with the state as a 501(c) 3.

The team consists of three tiers – Stop the Violence, the reactive branch that holds prayer vigils, attends funerals and reaches out to families that are affected by violence; Outreach in the Community, which focuses on various drives and collaborations with other groups in the community for issues such as sexual trafficking, and Youth/Academics, which includes mentoring, one-on-one reading and the lunch buddy program where volunteers visit school cafeterias twice a week and talk with students during their lunch break.

“We encourage them and listen to them,” said Johnson, “And as time [goes] on, other kids want to know who we are and what we’re doing.”

When the curiosity is sparked, Johnson said they let another Trublue child explain who they are first.

“It is important for them to be able to communicate what they are a part of,” she said.

Then the Team members explain more of the details and ask the child if they would like to join, reminding them that there will be high expectations for them to meet when it comes to their grades and behavior. If the child continues to show interest, the Team sends a packet of information home to their parents so they can make an informed decision.

Currently, the 13 core team members and n other volunteers, work on a consistent basis with Charlotte elementary schools Walter G. Byers and Reid Park Academy. Although they work with other schools as well and will often reach out to a school after seeing news of a particular issue on the news or social media.

In addition, they host an Easter event, an annual softball game, a back to school drive, a turkey drive for Thanksgiving and a Trublue Christmas event, as well as the trip to Atlanta in December and March, relying solely on fundraisers and donations from the community.

“It’s because of what the city does that we are able to do this,” said Johnson. “The community believes in us and we thank them for their support and everyone who supports our efforts. We do not take it for granted.”

Johnson, who grew up in a neighborhood around Walter G. Byers herself, said it’s her own experience that drives her to do something now.

“I know what it feels like to be that child,” she said. “You don’t know what they have to go through to even get to the school that morning – where did they sleep last night, was the water on, what did they witness in their home – I get that.”

And along with the other members of Team Trublue, she wants to let them know they have options.

“We want the next generation to understand they have choices,” she said. “We want to reach them when they’re young and show them the different avenues they can take even in the midst of what they’re going through.”

“We want to give them an alternate choice.”

Jennifer Baxter is a freelance writer: jbaxter29@gmail.com.

Want to help?

Visit Team Trublue’s Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/teamtrublue for information.

Someone will be at 2600 Newland Road to collect any donations noon-4 p.m. daily until Dec. 9. Details: Tonia Faison, 704-654-5213, or Donnell Gardner, 704-492-3673.

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