Making an Impact, One Pallet at a Time
Charles Robinson has come into CES University City in Charlotte, North Carolina, every week for the past four to five years to collect pallets from the branch and recycle them, and by now, he is a very welcome sight to Branch Manager Robert Johnson. But it wasn’t until just a couple years ago that Charles told them why he was taking time off work to collect pallets and load them onto his truck.
“At first, we were just happy to get rid of the pallets,” Johnson said. “With a lot of shipments coming in, it can get pretty messy, so if someone wants to do the work and recycle them, we let them.”
But Charles wasn’t just an ordinary person coming in to recycle the pallets. He was searching for any way to give back to his community and help those in need. From donating turkeys during the holidays to giving backpacks to kids and schools, every pallet he recycled went straight into his nonprofit organizations, Poverty Transformation, One Time Inc., and United Neighborhood of Charlotte.
“Charles would load up all these pallets, recycle them, and then use the cash to donate turkeys to the homeless, donate backpacks to kids in the area, and so much more,” Johnson said. “I was surprised, but after seeing how hard he worked and hearing about all the good he was trying to do in the community, I cut off every person who wanted to recycle our pallets. I gave them all to Charles.”
When Charles finally told Johnson what he was doing with the pallets he was recycling, he was blown away.
“I heard a quote that really spoke to me, and I was reminded of it again when I found out what Charles was doing and all the positive change he was affecting around Charlotte. ‘You can’t do everything, but what you can do is enough.’ At first, I didn’t know just how much reach he was going to have when I let Charles start taking pallets to recycle. It was such a small gesture, but it has had an enormous impact on those in need,” he said.
From Humble Beginnings
Charles didn’t stop there. To help stretch the dollars he’d receive from recycling pallets and donations, he’d contact the nonprofit programs at stores in the area to get more supplies at a lower price, including backpacks, school supplies, and food. Seeing firsthand the struggles of those around Charlotte, Charles knew that he had to continue doing more.
“Starting out was very challenging,” Charles said. “I was initially funding this myself, but I wanted to give back more through my programs. The money from recycling pallets was only the beginning, and it required a lot of work to load up and unload it at the recycling centers, but I saw how this money was helping people. If a company is going to help me help somebody, then I’m going to load up my truck and do the work. Families are going through challenging times and are really struggling, so I knew I just had to do something.”
Supporting Charlotte Families
Since starting in 2015, Charles has come to learn about many neighborhoods struggling in Charlotte, and he is always on the lookout for ways to stretch the money that’s donated to his organizations and maximize the impact he has on the Charlotte community.
The holidays are always a trying time for families. Putting food on the table can be a year-round struggle, but there’s even more pressure to do so around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2018 alone, Charles raised enough money to provide over 500 turkeys, which fed more than 1800 people for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Families are in a crisis, and although we can’t help everyone, we are going to do what we can,” he said. “I wanted people who are going through a hard time to know that we care about them, and we’re here to help them. Sometimes, people need that to keep moving forward.”
Charles currently works with over 26 nonprofits. He’s the VP of Poverty Transformation, and the CEO of One Time Inc. and United Neighborhood of Charlotte.
“It’s a group effort. Collaborating with other organizations to provide for those in need is just part of what we need to do to help others. We do outreach through social media, which has helped us get in touch with the community to see how we can help.”
Even though Charles has had some successful initiatives, his work is far from done in Charlotte. He’s always looking for more donations, more volunteers, and more help to reach as many people as possible. He is planning on hosting a 5K in 2020 to attract more attention and drive awareness about his organizations and nonprofits.
To help give back to the community, Charles spearheaded Charlotte Day, one of his biggest initiatives, which is a day devoted to giving back to the homeless and others who may be struggling. Free food and supplies are among some of the donations, and it was such a huge success the past couple years that the Mayor of Charlotte specifically asked Charles to continue this tradition annually as a way to support the people in their city.
In 2019, Charles expected to help 3,000 people in Charlotte, but over 8,000 people showed up, which speaks to just how much help is needed in the area. They gave out close to 10,000 backpacks to kids that day, and even helped cover the cost of and fully booked 12 hotels for families in need of shelter.
He has also opened up warming stations throughout the winter for Charlotte’s homeless, so they could get a break from the freezing weather. But Charles knew that there was more to helping than just giving back his time, supplies, and food. He knew what kind of pressures the people in the community face, especially at a young age.
“We reached out to schools, and of course we’ve done backpacks and school supply giveaways before, but we wanted to see what else we could do. Showing these children, including young teens, that we care about them may prevent them from following a bad path. We try to show the positivity that a good influence can have and that someone really cares for them. We hope to break the cycle of poverty and crime, which can go hand in hand. To help, we offer tutoring opportunities to help them learn and hopefully push them in the right direction.”
Unfortunately, the homeless population is on the rise in Charlotte, and Charles’ work is far from over. With rising housing costs, many people are being pushed out of their homes. Recently, an entire apartment complex was forced to shut down due to mold issues, and it displaced plenty of families who had to stay in a Walmart parking lot until they could find a place to stay. With so many families in the area struggling to provide, any donation helps these families keep going until they can land on their feet, and for some, these programs are a sign that the community is trying to offer their support.
What Can Your Branch Do?
Branch Manager Johnson was so interested in Charles’ story that he reached out to CES Cares to see how we could help after he saw the last CES Cares story in The Wire. Because his branch is in a neighborhood that is struggling, he’s seen firsthand the impact that is shaping the area. But instead of hoping for the best, Johnson was excited to get involved and see what he could do to help Charles and his city.
“People are hurting, and we have the ability to change that. It can be as simple as offering a guy the pallets you don’t need so he can recycle them or looking up nonprofits in your area and donating to a cause you care about,” he said. “Many branches are located near neighborhoods, and we’re locals just like they are. It’s important to give back to your community.”
It Pays to Give Back
If you have a cause, nonprofit, or organization that you care about, reach out to CES Cares and see how we can get involved. At the very least, for every 10 hours you volunteer and log with CES Cares, we’ll donate $100 to your charity of choice. So, get involved, and let CES Cares hear about it.