According to several representatives from local nonprofits, there is not a sense of competitiveness or territoriality between the different organizations.
The Caring Place Executive Director Reba Terry said relationships have been built in recent years to allow for a united front.
“None of us can do it all,” Terry said. “If we recognize that, then you know what, we can hone our skills in [an area] like clothes, food and diapers. Let someone else do something like the mentoring of students.”
Sometimes the collaborations between nonprofits is publicly visible, like when People for Care and Learning built a playground and restroom on the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway. The United Way jumped on the project with the Born Learning Trail on the sidewalk leading from the Greenway to the restroom.
Other projects are less likely to make the front page or morning news segment.
Bradley Initiative for Church and Community has a number of clients who participate in local community service projects.
According to Corinne Freeman, these have included projects with the Ark of Cleveland, PCL, Habitat for Humanity and YMCA Community Action Project (YCAP).
In turn, students enrolled in the YCAP program have completed grounds work at The Caring Place.
Increased relations between the nonprofits has led to heightened awareness of what each group has to offer.
Terry said communication with clients and fellow nonprofits decreases the possibility of duplication of services.
She cited the Karis Dental Clinic, which provides low-cost care for adults, as a product of such communication. The service is offered through TCP and the Bradley County Health Department in conjunction with local leaders and volunteer dentists.
“That was the result of several years of collecting data [from clients],” Terry said. “It was repeatedly doing needs assessments to see what the needs are, how important they are and if they were being met by someone in the community.”
The United Way’s Allen Mincey has served with the nonprofit for 17 years. He said Cleveland has always been a giving community, willing to step up for those in need.
He cited increased media coverage by local newspaper and radio stations as one reason it may seem nonprofits are engaged in more collaborations.
“It has always been there, but maybe at a smaller scale,” Mincey said. “In the case of the United Way, that is something we have always promoted because we raise funds for various organizations.”
He said the April 2011 tornadoes brought many of the local nonprofits together for a common goal. They discovered how much work could be accomplished when they operated with each other in emergency situations.
This did not mean they quit the work they were already doing.
“... We still had the home fires and spouses who were being abused. We still needed the emergency shelter to provide a place to go,” Mincey said. “You saw the collaboration there [with the tornado response], but you also saw that even though we collaborated together, we stayed within our area of helping folks in our community.”
Organizations and individuals alike are constantly looking for the gaps of service in the community.
Kristi Armstrong and her family are new on the nonprofit scene after witnessing such a gap in services. Her daughter, Lindsey, took notice of the local homeless and impoverished population. The family responded by providing breakfast every Saturday, followed by lunch.
Armstrong said the plan is to start serving breakfast every morning after the new year as part of the ever expanding Family Kitchen services.
A majority of the work is completed within the family’s home. The exception is Saturday lunches out of the Salvation Army’s kitchen on Inman Street.
She said the Family Kitchen’s limited interactions with other nonprofits have gone well so far.
“We have not had any negativity toward working with other nonprofits,” Armstrong said. “I hope it will grow and I hope it will stay on the positive road.”
Interactions with other nonprofits include donating food items to the Boys & Girls Clubs community Christmas parties; receiving bulk food items from The Caring Place; providing bread and other baked goods to YCAP; working with Transitions Furniture to help families who go to the Family Kitchen receive needed furnishings; and sending families and individuals to The Refuge for additional help.
Terry said the bulk items handed over to the Family Kitchen is a part of the Caring Place’s good stewardship practices.
“Sometimes we get items donated that are industrial sized. Unless it is a family of 10, there is no reason to give a huge can of corn to a family.”
The same idea has been carried out with The Refuge by TCP.
Terry said she has taken several calls from individuals looking to donate toys. She often suggests donations go to The Refuge for its community Christmas gift service.
“People who donate may not know about the other organizations,” Terry said. “We try to be a team player and bless other organizations with what they have been given.”
Family Promise Director Eva VanHook spoke highly of the nonprofit connections which help her provide the best services for her families.
Homeless families enrolled in the program to establish themselves again are often sent to The Refuge. There they learn how to write up a resume and learn important computer skills.
VanHook said it is better to place her families in The Refuge’s hands because they already have those services.
She has also utilized the financial knowledge of Kaye Smith at the UT Extension Service. Families meet with Smith to discuss budgets and income.
VanHook said sending families to other agencies in town is part of providing them with the best help possible.
“You can’t be a silo,” VanHook said. “We’ve branched out. Everyone does something different. It may look the same [at times], but it is different.”
VanHook continued, “It is important to build connections and know what other nonprofits offer.”