When nonprofits unite
Jan 02, 2013 | 574 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As 2012 drew to its trying close — words like Newtown, fiscal cliff and politics as usual gave us due cause for alarm — a group of Cleveland and Bradley County organizations rediscovered a known truth.

For the sake of simplicity, we will simply call it, “Strength in numbers.”

It was true decades ago. It was true a few years ago. It was true only weeks ago. And it remains true today.

To quote a leader from one nonprofit organization, “We can do far more together than we could ever do apart.”

And that set the stage for a Christmastime voyage into goodwill and community service, one that — if remembered by all and maximized by many — can extend into the new year, and well beyond.

We refer to a series of late 2012 partnerships between nonprofit groups that reached a zenith in community exposure when The Refuge announced its workers and volunteers would staff the Bell Ringer station at Hobby Lobby on behalf of The Salvation Army. The Refuge received none of the donations. They all remained with SA’s Cleveland Corps for its own causes and Christmas programming.

In exchange, The Salvation Army donated hundreds of Christmas stockings for The Refuge Community Christmas which provided gifts and toys for 460 area children, and a sense of empowerment for more than 200 East Cleveland families.

In its own right, The Refuge then returned The Salvation Army’s favor by donating leftover toys to the Cleveland Corps’ Angel Tree and other holiday programming.

This wasn’t the first time local nonprofits have worked together.

United Way of Bradley County and Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland have worked closely with The Salvation Army in past endeavors, including the Bell Ringer stations that have defined the Yuletide season and given a friendly face, a kind voice and a heartfelt image to The Salvation Army.

Of course, Christmas 2012 did not give birth to this new sense of nonprofit camaraderie in Cleveland. Some might argue it started April 28, 2011, the day after five devastating tornadoes took nine innocent lives, destroyed 285 homes and damaged hundreds of others in Bradley County. In the aftermath of this disaster, emergency service and nonprofit organizations came together in an unparalleled fashion to work as one movement under the auspices of the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization.

Such partnerships may have surfaced even before the terrifying twisters. But they became a norm as Bradley County began to rebuild.

Such agreements between nonprofits show that it isn’t about which group reaches the most people. It isn’t about quality of programming, size of budget or success in fundraising.

It is about working together.

It is about working as one.

It is about watching one another’s back.

It is about maintaining individual missions and core values, but understanding the power of helping one another in helping local families and individuals most in need.

Kelli Kyle, director of Community Involvement for The Refuge, may have said it best when she told our newspaper in a late-December interview, “As long as the help is improving people’s lives in our community, it doesn’t matter who is providing it. It takes many organizations working together to help families and we all do.”

Ruthie Forgey, Salvation Army Cleveland Corps administrator, agrees. “The Salvation Army believes that we work better together.” She added, “... We understand that we work together as a body of Christ and that, when we work in harmony, we can do so much more.”

Most believe the word “budget” will remain a hot topic in 2013 across America, and within our community, as it did last year. We see no reason to argue its merit.

But this inevitability does point to the importance of nonprofits working together whether they are The Salvation Army, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, The Refuge or any number of excellent groups and churches who strive to improve quality of life for all in our community — one family at a time.

It isn’t about what one group does.

It is about what many groups can do.