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Q and A with Kelly Chopus

by Emily Williams

December 8,2009

Tell us what the Charlotte Community Affairs Professionals (CCAP) is all about and how you got started.

CCAP is an association of corporate funders that was formed to learn and share information to better serve the communities where we live, work and do business. Our goal is to strengthen the individual and organizational capability of member professionals and corporations involved in corporate philanthropy.

About three and a half years ago, some of us were sitting around a table at UNCC helping Vice Chancellor David Dunn and Ashley Oster create the concept for a new department for community relations and community outreach. We took our time and really enjoyed the camaraderie and the sharing of information, and a couple of the corporate funders looked at each other and said “Why don’t we do this more often?” We liked the idea of sitting together once a quarter and talk about what’s happening in Charlotte and how companies can address those issues together. So that’s how it was born. We just celebrated our 3rd birthday in September.

How did you become involved?

I was one of the original founding members and I happen to be chair now. This is about how powerful our connection has been to each other and the community. The goal is not to have people know who we are so much as it is for us to have a formal relationship where we can get together in a room and have a closed-door approach to discussion. We share best practices, discuss giving guidelines and contributions processes and things that are germane to what we do. There isn’t an association in the area that provides professional development for people like us.

What do you think are the most important topics that need to be addressed right now?

At one of our first CCAP meetings we talked about our desire to continue our own education. Doctors and accountants have continuing education credits, lawyers have CLE’s, but we didn’t have anything for our professions. We wanted to create professional development that would have an impact on the community as well. We decided to host a retreat every year and spend time either in an agency funded by members or in some kind of community capacity. This year it was my turn to plan the retreat. We “Walked In Their Shoes”. Nine of the members spent a day seeing neighbors, service agencies and walking the city. It showed us how complex the homeless situation is in Charlotte. The real story is this huge tsunami of mostly working poor who happen to be homeless. The numbers are staggering- almost 20,000 people living on the streets in cars, in motels and on the couches of friends or relatives – and this includes children.

We looked at one another afterwards and said “We have to do more,” and that doesn’t mean just writing checks. We can achieve “more” through better education and attention brought to this topic and convening others.

How do you think that situation affects the Charlotte economy in general?

The ground zero of almost every other problem in this city is lack of affordable housing. We saw firsthand how homelessness results from that and how it affects so many people on so many different levels. There are about 8,000 vacant apartments right now and landlords are hurting too. This obviously affects our economy and changing this situation and helping these people will ultimately be good for the whole of Charlotte.

What is the CCAP’s ultimate goal, looking into the future? What is the organization aspiring to do?

We have fantastically strong partners in the community: Foundation for The Carolinas, United Way, ASC, various service agencies, providers and leadership groups. CCAP has been on the forefront of a lot of recent community issues because we see them first as funders. The community comes to us for financial and volunteer support. I think for the future we are looking to continue to be a community partner, as well as a resource to the governing boards of non-profit agencies that just want to ask questions. We want to be more of an information clearinghouse and continue to address some of the critical issues in this area for the good of our employees and for the rest of the people who live and work here.

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