Over the next several weeks, the Urban Ministry Center blog will feature stories about our staff members and the excellent work they do. We hope you enjoy learning about our team members and what they love about UMC.
Four years ago Adam Calderone was a college student studying political science at UConn, thinking about law school. Today he is an Outreach and Engagement Specialist at UMC. Coming out of college he didn’t really know what type of work he wanted to be involved with, just that he wanted “something that was hands on, social justice related, changing people’s lives type of work.” He decided to join AmeriCorps to see if nonprofit work appealed to him more than law and policy.
He started reading up on the Urban Ministry Center and ‘housing first’ and was struck by the mission. “So right when I got the position I was like, I’m moving down to Charlotte. I knew nothing about the culture or anything about the city, but I was gonna do it, because it was challenging. It’s really difficult to do this, and at the time, having just graduated from college, I think I needed to push myself to see what else was out there and what it took to work in this type of environment.”
Adam worked at Moore Place as an Americorps VISTA for two years developing the Neighbor to Neighbor program– a program that links tenants to other community members in order to connect them with people and encourage healthy relationships. “There wasn’t really anything for me to go off of, which was awesome.” With this project Adam says he “got his hands dirty, being able to put a vision into reality.” Since then he was hired to a full-time position with the Outreach and Engagement Team and he now spends most of his time out in the field.
The O&E team works directly with some of our most vulnerable neighbors. “Some people… have been turned away from every sector of their life basically… so a lot of people are hesitant to open up, like why are you coming to see me? Why do you care?” Luckily, the Outreach team is a tight-knit group that has “good communication with each other and honesty and bluntness sometimes.” This support system makes it possible for them to do what they do and connect with neighbors in the most difficult situations. “You surround yourself with similar people that are passionate about what you are, so many good things can come from that, and you learn a lot.”
Through his position at UMC Adam has built many great relationships, both with his team members, and neighbors he works with. He mentions that he has learned a lot from his clients by just listening. “That’s where the real relationship comes from, and I’ve learned a lot about things that people can do. You know, it’s funny, we always think about homelessness and the things people can’t do because of their given situation. I don’t really care what you can’t do. What can you do?” Adam helps neighbors to realize what they are capable of, and his story is an example of the difference we are all capable of making in our community.