This week, CBI is proud to feature Thom Klingman in our Leadership in Action series. Thom is VP of Business Development in CBI’s Charlotte market and is known for his leadership capabilities both in and out of the office. Thom has a passion for serving fellow Charlotteans and exemplifies our Live Love Serve Philosophy daily. We talked with Thom about his involvement with A Better World Charlotte and learned why this organization holds such a special place in his heart.
Q: What is your involvement in your local community?
Thom: Over the years, I have been involved with various community organizations, but the one I want to focus on today is called A Better World Charlotte. I currently sit on the Board of Directors and spend a large portion of my time outside of the office volunteering and serving A Better World.
Q: Tell us a little bit about A Better World Charlotte and why you were drawn to this particular organization.
Thom: Well let me start by saying that I am a lifelong Charlottean. I was born at Presby Hospital, spent my childhood in Charlotte and returned to the city after college to start my own family. My wife and I believe that Charlotte is the best place you can live, and we love that Charlotte is thriving and growing. We enjoy the sense of community we felt ever since putting down roots here, and we know that as Charlotteans we take care of our own.
A Better World Charlotte is an organization with a mission to uplift underserved youth in West Charlotte from a life of adversity by enriching their physical, mental and spiritual development. We do this by offering after-school programs for at-risk youth who live in troubled homes or neighborhoods. A Better World Charlotte gives kids who would otherwise be going home to an empty house after school the opportunity to gather with volunteers, mentors and peers and do everything from receiving help with homework to playing a game of basketball or enjoying an after school snack or dinner. Our goal is to help these kids gain the skills and confidence they need to grow into responsible adults, and the kids who stick with our program are guaranteed to have a positive, life-changing experience.
The thing I love most about A Better World Charlotte is that this organization is literally helping our neighbors. The kids that we support live right down the road from us but lack the resources and adult attention they deserve. This is where our organization comes in, and it truly is amazing to see what a difference we can make to the families in our program.
Q: Wow, A Better World Charlotte sounds like a fantastic organization that is truly helping Charlotte families. What are your responsibilities as a Board member?
Thom: I’ve been on the Board at A Better World Charlotte for 2 years. My responsibilities range from fundraising to planning and helping host Family Nights where the kids and their parents can come out and listen to a good message while eating dinner and enjoying time together. Pastor Ken Gilliard founded A Better World Charlotte in 2001, and he is such an inspiration to know and work with. Every day, Pastor Ken is mentoring, watching over and teaching the kids in our program, and we as a Board draw our strength from him.
I also serve on a subcommittee that helps with solving some of the more challenging issues these kids face. We had a situation last year where we helped a family escape an abusive situation and found them permanent housing that would get them back on their feet and allow them to live and thrive in safety. Although we sometimes deal with traumatic and upsetting situations, I experience so much joy when I see the annual statistics come out showing the success of our organization. It’s wonderful to see the children in the program grow and thrive on their own. That is really the reason why I continue to volunteer year after year.
Q: It sounds like most of the work you do is after school and in-person. Has A Better World Charlotte experienced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Thom: The pandemic certainly provides certain challenges. We’ve had to pivot 180 degrees. Most of our kids are learning remotely right now, and we haven’t been able to host after school programs like we did before because of state restrictions. Although there are limitations, we continue to find creative ways to support our youth. We aligned many of the resources at our disposal to provide computers, WIFI and hotspots to families in our program so the kids can continue their learning. We offer remote tutoring and mentorship opportunities, and we also host drive through meal and snack pick-ups so we can make sure our kids stay fed. COVID-19 is tough, and personally I fear that there will be a whole generation of children who suffer from it. A Better World Charlotte is doing the best we can to make sure the youth of West Charlotte don’t fall through the cracks at this time.
Q: How has the Live Love Serve Foundation partnered with A Better World Charlotte?
Thom: The Live Love Serve Foundation has been a fabulous partner to A Better World Charlotte. In 2020, we approached the Live Love Serve foundation for a grant that would significantly help us continue our mission of educating and serving Charlotte youth. We presented to David Longo and the Live Love Serve Foundation Board and were awarded $25,000 to contribute to our efforts. David and the Live Love Serve Foundation saw the longevity and grittiness of our group and felt the mission aligned with the Live Love Serve Philosophy of living a God centered life focused on love and service. We are so thankful for the grant provided by the Live Love Serve Foundation and know that it will help us continue to provide for these kids and show them the love of Christ.
Q: Tell us, how can others support A Better World Charlotte?
Thom: There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with A Better World Charlotte. We host Family Fun Nights on Thursday evenings, and we are always looking for volunteers to play games, have dinner and just hang out with the kids. Once we get back to doing in-person after school sessions we are always in need of mentors and tutors. And, of course people are welcome to contribute financially as well.
We are honored to feature Thom in this week’s Leadership in Action series and hear about all the great work he is doing for the youth of Charlotte. Learn more about A Better World Charlotte and consider supporting them this year.
Our Leadership in Action series is published on the CBI Blog every other Monday. Check back on February 8 for our next story.