Dr. King asked, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” The nonprofit High Road Inc. is working tirelessly to answer it in everything we do. Our mission is “to be an advocate for all undervalued and underrepresented people, focusing on ensuring equity, fairness, and equal access.”
In simple terms, we want to advocate for those who are either afraid to speak up or don’t understand how to. We want to relieve the anxiety, stress and frustrations of those often ignored, undervalued or underrepresented.
After nearly a year of careful thought and planning, and running the application by the director of the Small Business Development Center at the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, the 29-page application was sent to the IRS in early January. That same month, the N.C. Secretary of State approved the organization’s articles of incorporation. During the six-month waiting period for IRS approval, our group didn’t allow any grass to grow under our collective feet. The board began holding monthly Zoom planning meetings. Because of COVID and the fact that none of the board members were local, virtual sessions were necessary.
During those meetings, plans were made on how to grow the organization, but a majority of the time was dedicated to highlighting strong women who have reached the pinnacle of their career fields. The meetings were made public through social media invitations with the hope of having young women join in to receive a motivational and inspirational message. Some of the women who agreed to participate and share their journeys from humble beginnings to powerful forces in the workforce included Dr. Gwyndolan Swain, who serves as the department head for the newly created MHA Program at Belmont Abbey College. Next was Dr. Avis Williams, author, lecturer and the award winning superintendent of the Selma (Alabama) City School System. Dr. Georgette D. Hill, D.V.M. Ph.D., who currently serves as the pathology program manager and a toxicologic pathologist at Integrated Laboratory Systems (ILS) in Research Triangle Park. Dr. Robin C. Eury, who is the speech pathologist director at Howard University, brought a great message.
When the approval letter was received on June 11, the organization officially started and hasn’t slowed down since. A continuous fundraising and awareness campaign began, and people responded with immense generosity. Many who’ve donated, some multiple times, have said they strongly believe in our mission and recognize what we’re trying to accomplish. There are five donor categories starting at a minimum of $25 up to $1,500. People have already donated in each category and donor names who wished to be identified are listed on the website.
There are four specific services the organization offers free. The primary service is advocacy. The organization assists Rowan County residents by serving as an intermediary involving a consumer complaint, a healthcare visit, or a grievance with an entity such as police, education or a city/county government agency. The nonprofit has already advocated for citizens with concerns with the county, the City of Salisbury, code issues, the East Spencer Post Office, and the West End wild animal and dilapidated housing crisis. We gave a monetary donation to a family who lost everything in a house fire, gave donations to two families with special needs children to assist with expenses, donated bags of women’s clothing to Rowan Helping Ministers, donated two boxes of headphones to an after-school tutoring program, donated a box of new basketballs to a youth sports program, adopted a Title I Middle School Technology extracurricular program to send students to a STEM camp, and stocked the pantry of a local church’s community outreach home with turkeys and 45 Food Lion Cares boxes. In the week before Thanksgiving, the organization purchased turkeys, hams, trimmings and eight $1,000 Food Lion gift cards, and hand delivered them to needy families so they could enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.
The other services offered include partnering with the Easters Seals organization and the S.O.A.R program at the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. The goal is to make families and adults with intellectual disabilities aware of their services, and guide them through the contact process. With community development and revitalization, the nonprofit is looking to purchase abandoned and dilapidated homes and empty lots for redevelopment and prep them for sale. Finally, the group has been working with a local established youth sports organization to help build character while keeping them fit and healthy.
The board is a well-rounded mix of college educated professionals with diverse business backgrounds that bring a wealth of experience. A former city councilman, I serve as the board’s executive chairman. I bring a military background, over 20 years of healthcare leadership experience and 30 years of community advocacy. Serving as vice chairman is Georgia-based Hozell Odom, III. He and I served together in the Air Force nearly 40 years ago. Odom is a retired senior master sergeant with 27 years of service. He spent 11 additional years in civil service, and is the founder of the H3O Group. Deanna Stewart, who lives in Cary, is a 15 year registered nurse. She’s completing the final semester of her doctorate in nursing. Navy veteran and Salisbury native Vincent Eury lives in Virginia and has been employed with the Department of Health and Human Services for 20 years. He’s a prolific jazz musician and commercial voice over artist. The other two board members live in New Jersey. With degrees in criminal justice and paralegal studies, Tara Edwards has over 20 years of experience leading real estate law firms. Eugene Stewart retired as a lieutenant after 25 years with a New Jersey city police department, and is currently completing requirements for a degree in cybersecurity. He’s a well-respected small business entrepreneur in the NJ/NY area. The gallery section on our website gives you great insight into some of the notable people our board has interacted with.
If you would like more information on the organization, visit https://hardingroupllc.com/. To help us continue helping others, donate via PayPal on the website or mail a check to PO Box 3101, Salisbury, NC 28145.
Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a former City Council member who lives in Salisbury.