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Cornelius News

Local philanthropy: Special efforts, special people


Diana Rochester, Don Rainey, Bridget Rainey

By Jim Duke. Cornelius has some very special people who make a difference in the lives of many others. These help define our Town and its character. Let’s call them “givers.”  They recognizing a need and addressed it head on. What makes them unique is their ability to bring others to their cause and make serious things happen for the common good.  There are countless ways to give back, including church, for example, or volunteering at a hospital. Indeed, Cornelius stands out as a giving place, filled with human beings that give of time and treasure.  But these people started or run non-profit organizations that take giving to a whole new level. We’ll give you a look at more non-profits in February.

Here’s a look at five local non-profits and the people who run them


This Team Gets Respect

Arlene and Milton Berkman

Arlene & Milt Berkman – The Respect Ability Foundation

Respect Ability is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that understands we are a stronger community when we live up to our values – when we are welcoming, diverse, moral, and respect one another.  Their goal is to empower people to address bullying in all forms, by encouraging the “Bystanders” to become “Upstanders.” Working in schools, community groups and businesses they facilitate opportunities for communication and develop programs for helping parents, students, educators and employers deal with bullying and conflict resolution

 The Respect Ability Program, in addition to their 8 month school program, teaches special workshops for the students, teachers and parents on the pitfalls of cyber-bullying and how to be safe online.  The local program started in 2011 by Arlene and Milt Berkman and to date has served over 20 schools in the CMS and Lincolnton area. RAF educators work very closely with School Administrators and counselors to address issues as they occur  whether it be on the bus, school yard , lunch room or class room .Resolution of these problems is vital for a child to be able to focus on learning and not be concerned with  hiding from the bully.  How you can help? Go to the group’s webpage www.xbullying.org  if you would like to see what they do or to make an investment in our area young people’s lives.


That Darn Cat

Lake Norman Lucky Cats: Robin Byrd and Abigail Jennings

Abigail Jennings – The Lake Norman Lucky Cat Program 

Lucky Cats is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to improving the welfare of community cats primarily through facilitating the humane, long-term solution of Trap, Neuter, Return, Manage (TNRM) and low-cost spay/neuter services.  Abigail Jennings formed the group twenty years ago when she found a feral cat that needed care.  Most folks don’t know that there are dozens of “cat colonies” in Cornelius alone and that unless properly managed these colonies can grow to as many as 100 cats. If you would like to meet a happy beneficiary of LNLCP, just stop by Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge and meet “Mickie” the friendly feral cat who has benefitted from the loving care of Robin and Jack Salzman.  How can you help?  LNLCP needs volunteers to place and retrieve humane cat traps.    Call 704 877 7779 or email info@luckycats.org


Sometimes it Takes Just One

Stacy Phillips

Stacy Phillips

Philanthropy takes many forms and I would be remiss if I didn’t spotlight a young woman in Huntersville who is using social media and persuasion to do really good things for the homeless.  Stacy Phillips is the daughter of Huntersville Commissioner Danny Philips and has done some incredible things for the homeless in Charlotte.  Her ad hoc clothes drives and campaigns for public awareness is by their very nature “philanthropy” in its finest form.  How can you help?  Stacy needs donations of various items seasonally from time to time.  Follow her on FaceBook or at Connect Meck With Kindness and donate when you can.


One Top Notch Crew

Diana Rochester, Don Rainey, Bridget Rainey

The Raineys and the Sailors – TopDeck

TopDeck Foundation is a public charity that is dedicated to raising funds to support the morale and mission of Cornelius Police Department.  It was founded by Bridgett and Don Rainey and Kim and Mark Sailors after the shooting of a Cornelius police officer in 2015.  The Foundations fund raising event “Whisky, Wine, and Moonshine” will be held on September 8th at Hyde Park off Bailey Road.  The event brings together antique car lovers and law enforcement supporters to raise funds for our police officers.  Gear purchased by Top Deck fills in important safety and morale needs of the force.  Protective gear, uniforms, and “clotting kits” are among the recent donations to the needs of the CPD.  How can you help?  You can donate by going to the Foundation website or showing support by coming to the Whisky, Wine, and Moonshine event at Hyde Park.  Find out more at www.lkntopdeck.org.


A Giving Powerhouse

The Peninsula Community Foundation is an organization that raises funds for local charities in the Lake Norman Region.  To date it has raised over $ 1.4 million for the benefit of 38 local charities.  In effect, it is a charity for charities and has provided much needed funding for both startup charities as well as mature organizations in our region.  Each year, the Foundation hosts a fund raising Gala at the Peninsula Club.  For one night each year it brings together a host of generous folks for fun and fund raising. This event has raised in excess of $100,000 in each of the last six years and will likely rise even more in the years ahead. In addition, the PCF raises funds through an annual capital campaign where donors subscribe to an annual gift.  This year the Gala will take on a more casual tone, and is being called “The Big Party”.  Also this year, the first annual “The Holly Walk” fundraiser will feature tours of elegant holiday decorated homes.  The Big Party will be held on November 17th and the Holly Walk will take place on December 2nd.  How can you help?  You can give directly to the PCF through its website or attend the Big Party or Holly Walk.  Find out more at www.thepeninsulacommunityfoundation.org.


Jim Duke

Jim Duke, in addition to being a former member of the Cornelius Town Board, is the former president of the Peninsula Property Owners Association. He also chaired then Mayor Jeff Tarte’s water task force which resulted in corrected water bills.