Name: Chris Dennis
Leadership Charlotte (LC) Class: LC30
Title/Company: Founder of Community Dream Builders, Inc
Hometown: Rembert, SC
Education: Associate Degree Mechanical Engineering; BS Business Administration; EMBA from Queens University
Current personal or leadership goals:
Further develop platform and expand footprint as a Community Catalyst and Social Entrepreneur. Grow as a Thought Leader & Motivational Speaker focusing on the power of the Why.
What advice would you give to current Leadership Charlotte participants?
The program had a revolutionary impact on how I see and engage communities. I would advise participants to take the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the challenges that face the city of Charlotte while embracing that we as individuals have the ability to impact positive and sustainable change for communities all across the City of Charlotte. This program has given us access and tools to understand the How — each participant must dig deep and determine their own Why. I encourage participants, as stated in the famous words of Elizabeth McKee, live and “BE IN THE MOMENT.” There is no better time to lead and impact change than right now.
How did your Leadership Charlotte experience affect what you’re doing today?
This experience challenged me to rethink what success meant to me personally. It’s not about what you obtain in life but the people you positively impact along the way. This has been a core value in my community leadership style and philanthropic initiatives as a social entrepreneur. I try to invest my time and efforts in initiatives that impact the lives of all residents in the community of Charlotte. The former NC Music Factory Rock and Run, now called the AdvidXchange Music Factory 5K Rock and Run, sponsored by Community Dream Builders Inc, was not started as a 5K event. It started as a catalyst to change the perception of a community in 2010 that was labeled as one of the top 25 most dangerous neighborhoods to live in America. The experience gained through Leadership Charlotte and the ability to be in the same room with dynamic leaders that were already making difficult decisions during that time, allowed me to understand the impact that an initiative like the 5k could have on the very community I was living in – Lockwood. The event gave hope that created community revitalization which is now evolving into a cultural shift and rebranding of the entire corridor the city has now re-labeled as the North End Smart District. That original initiative wasn’t the effort of one individual person but a conscious belief and collaboration of a community’s will to survive and thrive.
Community Dream Builders continues to evolve and is currently working on finalizing plans to launch an initiative in the Smart District that will utilize art, innovation, and technology to engage the community. We are excited to further empower the community by providing a creative space that encourages exploration of varying perspectives through the medium of art to drive community cohesiveness. This will be one of Charlotte’s first Smart Homes with a mission to bring communities together through the use of Art and Innovation in the heart of a community once labeled as fragile.
Greatest personal accomplishment and why:
Seeing the actual results of a program that I started call Leaving IT Behind (IT – Inter Troubles). The program is a part of Community Dream Builders which engages and elevates children at risk of poor social, economic, education and health outcomes.
To have youth like Quentin Blair, who most may have counted out, tell you that you made a tremendous impact in their life is the biggest reward. He has a bright future and I am extremely honored to be a part of his journey.
Quentin Blair’s comment: “I grew up in Lockwood,” Blair said. “That’s all I knew for most of my life. I lived there for 16 years. That is where I met Mr. Dennis, and he got me involved in the Leaving IT Behind program. The core things that I learned from the program centered around upward motivation. Always keep yourself positive. Always keep yourself plugged into an outlet outside of what you may be faced with every day. Keep your eyes open for little ray of sunlight. In places where there’s so much negativity, you have to look for the positive, and the positive outcomes in life.”
Quentin is currently an elementary education major at North Carolina Central University with a concentration in Social Science.
What do you hope to be doing (differently) in five years?
Reflecting about how we faced the mountains of yesterday, which will be the mounds that we stand on tomorrow, as we look towards a brighter future – because of our dedication and engagement today.