“I didn’t have the luxuries then that I have now.”
Charles Everett, 55, was 9-years-old when his family moved from Mississippi to Tennessee. His parents were sharecroppers, instilling in their children the value of hard work and humility.
Charles didn’t know he was poor. All he knew was his family did not have much money.
“I make sure I’m grounded by that experience of growing up in poverty. I take the time to visit the area where we lived. Our old house is gone, but there are still people and families living in those impoverished conditions. I am a better volunteer because of my upbringing.”
Charles went on to graduate from Westwood High School and Southwest Tennessee Community College (then Shelby State Community College) where he studied finance. HE soon attended and graduated from The University of Memphis where he studied business management. Today, he works as a Technical Principal with FedEx TechConnect Global Strategic Planning and Analysis.
Charles has served as a volunteer with different organizations across the Mid-South for 25 years. During a Leadership Memphis session, he was introduced to United Way of the Mid-South through a presentation given by a United Way representative. It was United Way’s commitment to supporting people in poverty through partner agencies that hooked him.
“I thought this would be the opportunity to use the budgeting and finance experience that I have. I soon learned it entailed much more than that. I am giving these agencies the support they need to serve the people in our communities who need their support. I am making a change.”
Charles serves as a United Way allocations agency certification committee volunteer, and his heart strings are pulled any time he visits partner agencies to witness the work they do with, and for, their clients. Site visits give volunteers the chance to see the programs that allocation decisions will impact.
“Visiting the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Memphis was probably my most rewarding experience. The staff and facilitators do a good job with connecting and relating to those young people, from education services to counseling and recreation. I believe our youth are our future, and if we can impact them we can change this community and the world.”
When Charles sees these youth, he is always reminded of his humble beginnings. His upbringing drives his ‘why,’ his reason for volunteering.
“It’s important not to belittle people because of their situations. Give more time to mentor and groom the youth, and support and show compassion to those who are older. Make them feel they have a place in this world.”
The work Charles Everett does for United Way has made him a bolder community advocate for people living in poverty, supporting his courage, strength, and insight to address the popular misconceptions that people living in poverty are lazy and make poor choices.
“I’m hoping people become more sympathetic to people living in poverty. Put yourself in their shoes. Nobody chooses to live in these conditions, and nobody wants to stay. No one would ever dream of living in poverty.”