Leaders of Charlotte Nonprofits Carol Hardison and Mara Campolungo

Carol Hardison

Carol Hardison wanted to become a social worker while still in high school, but because of her SAT scores and high aptitude for math, she was encouraged to pursue a career as a computer programmer instead. She did this successfully, working for Duke Energy Corporation as a leader in its Information Technology Department for 18 years.

Carol continued to be drawn to charitable work, volunteering with about 15 different organizations through the years, all dedicated to helping people in poverty. Carol realized what she calls her “second act” midway in her career when career testing revealed she should be the executive director of a nonprofit serving people in poverty. Soon after, she heard of the opening for CEO of Crisis Assistance Ministry and applied. Carol has held the position for 19 years.

Carol describes the career shift and her move to leading Crisis Assistance as the moment, “I realized it … pure career alignment with who I am for the first time in my life.”

Carol now utilizes her leadership skills to focus the team on its core goal of “making sure our low-income neighbors have help and hope.”

The need for the organization’s assistance has never been greater or more complex as Charlotte has seen a rise in its poverty rate, now over 12 percent, up from 9 percent 18 years ago. Poverty disproportionately affects women, with 16 percent of women living in poverty compared to 13.3 percent of men.

Crisis Assistance Ministry’s Free Store

The Free Store is the only comprehensive structure of its type, where low-income families are given the opportunity to shop once a month for clothing, shoes and household items at no charge.

More than 41,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students are required to wear uniforms, so new and gently used uniform apparel is in particularly high demand over the coming summer months. 

To donate items to the Free Store, including school uniforms, drop them off at Crisis Assistance Ministry’s convenient donation drive-thru, 500-A Spratt St. in Charlotte. For more information regarding donations, visit CrisisAssistance.org/donate.

Want to Volunteer?

There are numerous opportunities to volunteer for individuals ages 5 and older and groups of all sizes. The common goal is to extend a hand to neighbors to prevent homelessness and preserve the dignity of the thousands of Mecklenburg County residents who benefit from Crisis Assistance Ministry services each month. To find out how you can get involved, visit CrisisAssistance.org/volunteer.

Mara Campolungo

Mara Campolungo and Brian Dulin founded The Sandbox in 2012. As the executive director of The Sandbox, Mara brings 25 years of professional marketing experience to bear in her efforts to advocate for seriously ill children and their families.

The CARRE Approach to Servicing Families with Seriously Ill Children

The Sandbox offers customized care services to families in North and South Carolina with children who have been diagnosed with cancer, a rare, life-altering illness or terminal diagnosis. The personalized plan for each family is developed using CARRE: Caring About Real Relationships Empathetically.

There are currently 159 families enrolled in The Sandbox’s CARRE program, which provides families with a variety of services based on the whole family’s needs at that particular point in the treatment of the sick child (known as the honoree). Service goals are determined on a per-family basis, which can range from evaluations and education to resources in various forms—from gift cards to provide for the general needs of the honoree to provisions for siblings who may feel left out by the emotional and financial toll serious illness takes on a family’s resources.

The Sandbox Sponsors More than 20 Events Annually

A primary service The Sandbox focuses on providing to its families is group support through the more than 20 events the nonprofit holds each year. Some of these are well-publicized fundraisers such as the annual An Evening of Believing Prom for young patients and the Cereal with CC Breakfast-Workshop, which just celebrated its second year. Other events are not money makers but instead are held solely to offer The Sandbox members food, family and fellowship, essential elements for emotional support while dealing with a health crisis within the family.

Mara points out these events are extremely important because they provide a time and place where “kids can just be kids” and families can seek support from other families.

Importance of Volunteer ‘Go-Getters’ to The Sandbox

The Sandbox relies on a unique volunteer program known as the Go-Getters. These volunteers are known as Go-Getters because their commitment is to help how and when they can for as long as they can.

“People can often ebb and flow with their commitment to charities, so every time we have a community meeting, we talk about our CARRE program and opportunities for volunteers to Give Where You Live,” Mara says.

The Give Where You Live initiative encourages volunteers to participate in local efforts to assist those in need in their communities.

DiSC Personality Assessment

Workshop attendees and volunteers with The Sandbox are asked to complete a DiSC Personality Assessment which allows the team to identify the ways each volunteer can be most impactful in servicing families.

Mara maintains she has used the DiSC profile almost daily in her personal and professional life for the past 15 years and maintains that the assessment is a crucial asset in assisting people to assess their gifts and talents and in making sure that each person is “in the right seat on the right bus.”


For more information, visit Gotsandbox.org. To join the Go-Getters Team, visit GotSandbox.org/volunteer.