The motto of Common Heart, a Union City, North Carolina-based nonprofit that began in 2006 and that focuses on serving those in need, is: “a small revolution of kindness.”

Common Heart uses Getting Ahead in its effort not only to help people but also to fight the causes and effects of poverty.

Kara Lopp, community engagement manager for Common Heart, regularly writes blog posts that tell powerful stories of the impact Common Heart is making. Below are snippets of how Common Heart and Getting Ahead have changed lives for the better.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Tacara

Tacara Howard had recently lost her mother, ended an unhealthy relationship, and was homeless, unemployed, and spending nights in her car. She was also a single mother of two boys, 9 and 14. Getting Ahead helped her reclaim her life. Tacara now helps lead the Common Heart Advocates for Change group, where participants receive sustained support.

Now, Tacara works in quality assurance for a mattress company, and she lives with a friend while she saves enough money to be able to afford to rent a place for her and her two boys.

Tacara is presently working toward improving her emotional health, eating healthily, and becoming a homeowner. She and other Common Heart Getting Ahead graduates will be able to benefit from six months of free life coaching, as well as $500 in an emergency savings account as they continue to bolster their vocational and money management skills.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Desiree

Desiree learned about Getting Ahead while at a Common Heart food pantry. Her husband is disabled and was not able to work when she and her husband had two college-age daughters. While Desiree was participating in a Getting Ahead empowerment group, one of their daughters got engaged, and the friends Desiree made in Getting Ahead were vital for being able to help afford the wedding.

Because she learned how to network and build up resources in Getting Ahead, she was able to afford alterations to her daughter’s wedding dress, rent tablecloths, and secure a nice venue for the wedding.

Subsequently, through Common Heart Getting Ahead and Advocates for Change workshops, Desiree and her husband recently prequalified for a mortgage. Desiree credits Common Heart and Getting Ahead for these dramatic changes in her life.

The impact of Getting Ahead: James

Like Desiree, James Levee heard about the Common Heart Getting Ahead group when he was visiting a Common Heart food pantry. While initially skeptical, James is now a vocal proponent of Getting Ahead.

He and the four others who graduated together from the Common Heart Getting Ahead program now help lead the Common Heart Advocates for Change group, where they will give and receive further support.

James said that the 18-session Getting Ahead journey was like being on a raft with others who all need to cooperate in order to survive the journey. Through his participation in Getting Ahead, James has gained a deep appreciation for connection with others.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Angie

While Angie Merritt was recovering from drug addiction, Getting Ahead was one of her safe spaces, and it provided her an opportunity to make new friends.

Angie’s Getting Ahead cohort, which consisted of five women, chose a graduation theme of “Fall Out of Poverty into a Season of Prosperity.” Angie and the other four now help lead the Common Heart Advocates for Change group.

Like others, Angie learned about Getting Ahead from a friend who was at a food pantry. Through Getting Ahead, Angie has learned more about the values of patience and taking things one step at a time.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Kenyatta

Kenyatta Moore lost her job in customer service at the same time she was enrolled in college courses, helping her autistic daughter with school, and taking care of her mother.

Through Getting Ahead, Kenyatta realized that her situation was not all her fault, and that knowledge gave her power.

Kenyatta credits Getting Ahead for teaching her about resources and social capital, which are often just as valuable, if not more so, than money.

Now, Kenyatta is a Getting Ahead facilitator and helps others navigate their way out of poverty.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Marie

Marie Kreutzer found it difficult to stay current with medical bills after dealing with heart and kidney problems, and food seems to consistently be in short supply. Marie was discouraged. Like many others, she learned about Getting Ahead while at a food pantry. Sarah Kimbrough, a graduate of Getting Ahead who became a lead facilitator, told her about the Getting Ahead program.

At first, she was skeptical, but participating in the program changed both her outlook and her circumstances, and Marie has begun to train to become a Getting Ahead cofacilitator.

The impact of Getting Ahead: Ruth

Ruth Perez was stressed. At the same time she was working toward obtaining her GED, her mom was hospitalized with COVID, and her family had been without water service for three months because they could not afford to pay.

Getting Ahead helped Ruth, 45, turn around her life, and she graduated from Getting Ahead with her daughter-in-law, Johanna Delgado. Both women earned their GEDs the same week.

Now, Ruth is focused on building her credit, purchasing a home, eating healthier, and spending more quality time with family.