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Name: Sarah Paris
Leadership Charlotte Class: 34
Title/Company: Financial Advisor – DHG Wealth Advisors
Hometown: New York, New York
Education: BA Economics, Cum Laude, Duke University
If you could describe your Leadership Charlotte experience in three words or phrases, what would they be?
Transformative. Life-Changing. Much of the good in my life today can be traced back to my experience in LC.
What do you remember most vividly from your Leadership Charlotte experience and why?
I have 2 very distinct memories from my LC experience.
During Past, Present and Future Day we were fortunate to gain admittance to the 60th floor of the BoA tower. This is a private floor where the most senior BoA executives sit. In fact, we had a dress code for the day (gentleman had to wear jacket and tie) because you can’t go to the 60th floor looking like a slob! I don’t necessarily remember the presentations and discussions – just the fact that we were in this incredible space that very few people get to access.
Several months later, during Community Impact Day, we participated in the poverty simulation at Crisis Assistance, and if I were quizzed on it today, 4½ years later, I could not only tell you the specifics of the role I was assigned, but I could also tell you exactly how I felt going through the simulation – extremely frustrated at not being able to make any headway in changing my situation. To think that the 20 minutes of frustration I felt were what so many people struggle with every single day? Beyond powerful.
The experiences were at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of opportunity – and both stuck in my memory vividly, although for very different reasons.
What would you like to see Leadership Charlotte alumni get involved in and why?
Forty percent of our workforce can’t afford appropriate housing for the families. FORTY PERCENT. These aren’t lazy folks, with an overinflated sense of entitlement looking for handouts. These aren’t people looking to beat the system, looking for freebies. These are hard-working people, usually earning anywhere from 40% – 80% of Area Mean Income – which is typically too much to qualify for most subsidies or nonprofit assistance, but not nearly enough to pay rent and cover other expenses. Astonishingly, these families ultimately spend more than half – and sometimes up to 75% of their income on just their housing.
If you had to choose between food and rent, what would you choose?
A few years ago, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson successfully “free-climbed” to the top the nearly vertical El Capitan’s “Dawn Wall.” They were able to succeed by finding tiny grooves and footholds – places to plant their feet, get stability, get balance and then push up to the next level.
That’s what affordable housing is. It’s a leg up. It’s stability. It’s hope.
I would challenge every LC alum to make this issue a priority. Let’s make Charlotte a model city for getting our workforce into homes they can afford and making our community a better place to live.
Favorite non-profit or community organization in Charlotte and why:
In April 2013 I was inspired to start teaching monthly cooking classes at Moore Place, which is part of Urban Ministry Center and which provides permanent housing to people who are formerly chronically homeless. Those monthly classes eventually became the HousingWorks Culinary Arts Program (HCAP) and over 4 years later the program is thriving. While I still teach classes, I now teach with the help of some dedicated and amazing volunteers – no to mention that we are fortunate that chefs and other “foodies” in the community are willing to share their time and talent. This has allowed us to bring some exciting culinary experiences to the HousingWorks residents who participate in the program.
HCAP was born from a true and genuine passion in my heart which is undoubtedly what makes it my most favorite non-profit in Charlotte.