CASE STUDY FOR REBUILDING TOGETHER OF GREATER CHARLOTTE
BUILDING TRUST IN COMMUNITY
Rebuilding Together of Greater Charlotte (RTGC) works to prevent displacement and preserve affordable homeownership by providing critical repairs and neighborhood improvements that make communities and homes safer and healthier for our neighbors in need.
Beth Morrison, Executive Director of RTGC, has seen firsthand the reasons that trust is often lacking in neighborhoods. “We regularly witness residents targeted by developers to sell their homes or taken advantage of by contractors promising to do home repairs – but they get swindled instead,” she said. “The impacts of generations of disinvestment have very real consequences for many of our neighbors.”
When Hidden Valley resident Merritt McCully, Executive Director of Mayfield Memorial CDC, first suggested that RTGC consider projects in the neighborhood, Morrison knew that the traditional approach to engaging the community wouldn’t work. Rather than knocking on doors with the hope of getting a favorable response, conducting survey after survey, and convening one-time focus groups that don’t report back on findings, Morrison focused on cultivating authentic relationships – and on listening first.
RTGC started by meeting with community leaders in Charlotte’s Hidden Valley neighborhood. “One thing we learned with previous neighborhood work is to get the lay of the land early in the process and to include multiple voices to get a range of opinions.” The team focused on building trust and relationships with leaders of Mayfield Memorial CDC, Hidden Valley Community Association and the Hidden Valley Optimist Club. Marjorie Parker is president of the Hidden Valley Community Association and a longtime resident. She cites bringing RTGC to Hidden Valley as one of her greatest accomplishments and is passionate about helping seniors age in place to prevent gentrification. “If you see something that’s not good you have to be a part of the solution,” Parker told the Charlotte Observer in 2022. “I think people underestimate the value they bring.”
RTGC developed a referral pipeline in Hidden Valley by working with these community-based organizations to determine a strategy that prioritized their needs for communication. The final plan included postcards, yard signs and attending community meetings and events. As the quality of their work spread by word of mouth, the organization got even more referrals.
Ultimately, the partnership was a success because of the emphasis RTGC placed on listening and prioritizing the wants and needs of the community. “Early on, we secured a $125,000 grant and that was only possible because we had already built relationships with community leaders and knew exactly what they wanted for their neighborhood.” The result was a park renovation, including a partnership with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation to pave trails. “That did more than anything else to establish trust because residents saw that we were in it for the long haul,” Morrison said. “We help not just with critical repairs, but with what they envision for their neighborhood.”
Building an authentic trust cycle requires patience and time and there is no shortcut.
“It took us two years to develop the relationships we needed…But the result of that effort has been a deep partnership that couldn’t be replicated any other way.”
– Beth Morrison, RTGC
Conclusion: It’s about Equitable Resources and Investment