The Relatives Family Update
Please ensure you scroll down to read all of the recent stories in this newsletter.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the unique risks and challenges faced by people of color in our community. The struggles endured are often rooted in systemic racism and are often invisible to those who have not experienced them firsthand. At The Relatives, we are committed to addressing these disparities and creating a more equitable community.
My name is Mark Jerell, and I am proud to serve as Secretary on The Relatives Board of Directors.
The young people served by The Relatives come from diverse backgrounds and face a range of complex issues. However, it is crucial to understand that the risks they encounter are not the same for everyone. For people of color, the barriers they face are often compounded by racial bias, discrimination, and inequality.
The Relatives recognizes systemic racism perpetuates cycles of poverty, limited access to housing, education, healthcare disparities, and disproportionate involvement with the criminal justice system. These factors place an immense burden on our youth, making it difficult to break free from their circumstances.
At The Relatives, we are deeply committed to combating systematic racism and its detrimental effects. We strive to provide comprehensive support services addressing not only immediate needs but the underlying factors that contributing to their challenges.
During this month of celebration and reflection, let us remember the struggles and resilience of those who have come before us. Let us also renew our commitment to fighting against systemic racism and creating a more just and equitable world.
ICYMI: The Relatives On Queen City News
The Relatives Executive Director, Trish Hobson, and volunteer, Katie Spencer, recently spoke with Queen City News about unhoused youth and young adults in our community and how your support allows The Relatives to serve this often hidden population.
When asked about volunteering her time with the young people at The Relatives, Katie reflected upon her lived experience and shared “I felt like there needed to be somebody who can relate to them and let them know that it’s okay…I just wanted to be that guidance. I wanted to be somebody who was a positive person…and be that support that they’re missing.”
Sharing Her Gift
Volunteer Breeana Taylor shares her love of poetry with the young people at The Relatives by visiting multiples times a month with her Poetry & Conversation Corner program. Our thanks to her for crafting the piece below in honor of Black History Month:
Vaneta Smiley: A Full Circle Face of Hope
Vaneta Smiley is a well-known face at The Relatives. Once a week, she volunteers at the Youth Crisis Center by helping the residents with their homework. “Volunteering, to me,” says Vaneta, “is personal.”
Vaneta’s personal connection with The Relatives began over 40 years ago when, as a teenager, she sought relief from a volatile homelife. “I wasn’t at my best when I stayed at The Relatives,” Vaneta shares, “I was afraid and I had no direction.”
She credits the caring staff at The Relatives for giving her the hope necessary to move beyond crisis and into a stable future. Vaneta’s experiences at The Relatives have had a profound impact on her life:
“One of the counselors at The Relatives became my Godmother and I ended up switching careers in my 40s. I pivoted from corporate America to special education. I wanted to be a voice for children who are too often marginalized.”
Today, Vaneta uses her skills as an educator and her time at The Relatives to reach both the young people she volunteers with as well as her students.
“I share my story with the students I teach because it reminds them to show kindness to everyone without judgement. I share my story with the young people at The Relatives because it gives them hope.”
Which is why Vaneta wants her efforts as a volunteer tutor to offer more than homework assistance:
“The Relatives means hope to me,” Vaneta says, “and I want to be the face of hope for the young people who need The Relatives the same way I did.”
If you would like to volunteer with The Relatives, then please click here.
If you are interested in sharing your Relatives story in honor of our 50th anniversary, then please visit the Share Your Story page on our website.
Empowering Young People
At The Relatives, 87% of the youth and young adults we serve are Black, compared with the overall demographics of Mecklenburg County where 33% of residents are Black. It’s clear there’s an intersection between race and disproportionate access to education, housing, quality healthcare, employment opportunities, and advancement.
One of the ways The Relatives empowers every young person we serve to work towards a stable future is through our employment program. Young people at The Relatives have access to jobs, training programs, resume building services, and interview coaching.
The Relatives spends an average of $1,227 each month on interview attire and transportation, ensuring young people have the confidence and means necessary to achieve excellence.
You can empower youth and young adults experiencing crisis in our community by making a gift today.