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What I Learned From Being a Lead Partner by Denise Ratchford

Posted by katiegauntner

December of 2019 marked the close of a three-year grant and partnership that SVP enjoyed with Fashion & Compassion (F&C).  I learned a lot during these three years-about myself, about SVP and about Charlotte.  As a result, I have grown a lot during this time and am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the health of a nonprofit that is making a difference in the lives of women in our city.

I entered the Lead Partner role with some trepidation, not really knowing what I could bring to the table, except that I connected with Michele Dudley, Fashion & Compassions’s former Executive Director and her passion to connect fragile women in our community, through jewelry creation, to resources, to God and to each other.  I was a big believer in what community can accomplish and I saw it unfold before my eyes when women entered into a partnership with Fashion & Compassion.  It turned out that a strong belief in their mission was enough to dispel my initial fears and connect me to the organization.

SVP Partners were instrumental in sharpening Fashion & Compassion’s focus during our time together.  Partner Henry Lander led seminars on Mission and Vision and one valuable thing that arose from the seminars was an Artisan Empowerment Program.  Intake surveys were developed to identify what an artisan hoped to accomplish during her time in the program.  This in itself was powerful as a first step in establishing a new life path and having some control in the process.  Resource partners outside of Fashion & Compassion were identified according to needs found on the Artisan intake survey.  The staff at F&C provided loving boundaries to help the artisans stay on track.  Body, mind and soul were strengthened during weekly jewelry creation meetings where lunch and Bible study were offered and friendships grew.

An SVP seminar I attended on the 2013 Harvard study which ranked Charlotte 50 out of 50 cities for moving out of poverty opened my eyes to the many obstacles that exist in our city.  I recognized in my time spent as Lead Partner that Fashion & Compassion shares social capital with the women they serve by creating a place at the table and making space for those who have little to no voice.  Giving a person a place where she is seen, heard and attended to can dramatically change the course of that person’s life as well as affect the trajectory of a whole city.  I feel that removing obstacles is what I want my life to be about and SVP has helped connect the dots for me.

I’m happy to be part of an organization where I’m able to serve, learn and grow.  Ongoing relationships have been forged out of SVP’s partnership with Fashion & Compassion and Partners have been valuable resources to new Executive Director Beth Bell.  I’m grateful for the openness of both Michele and Beth to SVP’s partnership.  I feel that this partnership was very rewarding for both of our organizations because of the transparency offered by both ED’s and the willingness to listen and trust.  Our SVP Partner network had many resources that Fashion & Compassion could use and for that I am extremely grateful.

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