As We Step Into 2019

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Friends,
 
I hope you will indulge me the opportunity to share a more personal message as we close out this year and charge headlong into 2019. 
 

Transitions

A few months ago, I quietly announced that I will be retiring effective May 1, 2019. After a 33 year career with local United Ways, 22 of those years here in Asheville and Buncombe County, it’s a bittersweet moment. But, I’m ready to hang up my jacket and tie and replace them with a fly fishing rod and a box of flies!
 
Sherie and I will remain in the area. She will continue to teach for Buncombe County Schools and we’ll both continue our church and volunteer work. 
 
My decision to retire is one of a number of significant transitions that occurred this year for me, and our staff. I’m hard pressed to remember another time in my career where, in such a short period of time, I’ve seen so many of my coworkers lose a parent, sibling or close relative, myself included. We also saw a number of happy transitions, there was a marriage and we welcomed a record number of babies to our staff members’ growing families. 
 
It’s the stuff of life - this being born, and dying, and all the beautiful and tragic milestones in between. And all of these kinds of moments are the reasons our staff is here, day in and day out, doing this work. 
 
We are here to listen to our neighbors and bear witness to our community’s pains and joys. We are here to work with others to find the roots of problems and band together to address them. We are here to both lead and follow as we build relationships and community.

As The New Year Arrives

As we prepare ourselves to step into a new year, I want to lift up a few things that we need you, our valued donors and volunteers, to champion in the year to come: 
  • Community Schools - With every passing year, we learn more about what we can accomplish by using the Community School Strategy as a way to organize our community to support the success of students, their families and the communities they live in.  

One thing we are very excited about right now is that we have the Early Warning and Response System up and running in 9 schools and more than 10 community partner organizations. This tool makes it possible for educators and service providers to track and, when needed, respond to the needs of 5200 local intermediate and middle school students, so they stay on track toward graduation.

What we could use your help with… The evidence is clear - students who have a caring adult in their life do better than those that don’t. We need you to step up to serve as the “second shift” of caring adults for local children. View all of the opportunities we have listed on our volunteer center website here. 

  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - We’ve prioritized learning how to use a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lens in all of our work. As part of this effort, almost half of our staff have attended local Racial Equity trainings and the rest will attend in 2019. We have also incorporated additional trainings into our annual staff meeting calendar, joined the WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition and have begun using the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks assessment tool to evaluate all of our policies and practices. We will continue to address these findings in the year(s) to come. 

What we need from you… We know there is no “end point” in this work. Anyone who is committed to this work, be they an individual, or an institution made up of individuals, knows that there is always room to improve, always work to be done to peel back the invisible layers of privilege and institutional racism. So, to that end, we invite you to help us see our public facing blind spots and if you haven’t already done so, we invite you to take this journey yourself - joining a session of the Racial Equity Institute Training or Building Bridges as a start.  

  • Help us spread the word about finding a great new leader for this organization. Here’s the job description and I ask that each of you take it and spread it far and wide. 

A Final Thought

“If I expect people to show up for my child, for my community, but I don’t show up… no one shows up.” This was shared by Velene, a mother of several Asheville City Schools students. Velene served on a student/parent panel that shared their perspectives about inclusion with attendees at the fall convening of more than 50 local schools and organizations implementing the Community School Strategy. 
 
Months have passed since that event, but I can’t shake her words. I challenge myself and all of you to continue to show up for one and another. Let’s show up for those we love and those we’ve never met. Let’s show up where we’ve never ventured before with a humble and open spirit and peace in our hearts. 
 
 
All of my best to you and yours this holiday season - David Bailey