A recent USA Today opinion article encouraged the American people to find hope in individuals and communities doing extraordinary things.
Glenn Reynolds recapped a story of a local hero in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old football player, gave up his life to protect three girls from gang gunfire. His split second decision to care for others cost him his life but saved the three girls. The shooting and Zaevion’s heroism drew attention from across the nation.
As Reynolds points out, Zaevion’s instinctual response may be partly due to his athletic training as a football player, but it’s also a reflection of the values he internalized. In a season of American culture that is seemingly lacking in strong values and moral regard, stories like Zaevion’s give us hope in the power of human action directed for the benefit of others. These are the stories we crave to hear — stories of individuals serving their neighbors and helping others.
In the article, Reynolds recalls a well-known quote by Fred Rogers. In response to seeing scary things, his mother told him: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
I’ve heard the same sentiment from Bob Woodson, who leads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise — a Stand Together Catalyst. Mr. Woodson tells me that too often we focus on the problems facing our communities rather than the solutions. And the solutions are what he calls “antibodies” within communities — the people who are already helping.
Stand Together Catalysts reflect this sentiment, which is at the core of what we do. Our goal is to identify, support, and celebrate these helpers — people who are serving others out of mutual benefit. We are constantly looking for men and women building solutions in their communities that serve the common good.
Take ACTS Housing, for example. They work with low-income families to make homeownership a reality. For those who’ve been denied access to the home ownership market for a number of reasons, the process can appear overwhelming and unconquerable. ACTS Housing works with families and individuals through a variety of services, including real estate brokerage, rehab expertise, low-interest loans, and financial counseling. For many, home ownership is a critical step to financial stability and freedom.
Addressing substance abuse, Phoenix Multisport helps individuals striving to live a sober life. Phoenix Multisport fosters the emotional support necessary for sobriety through various physical activities offered every day of the week. They recognize the importance of community in the life of every individual, even and especially for those who are often stigmatized by others.
Defy Ventures respects the dignity of formerly and currently incarcerated individuals by offering training, mentoring, and entrepreneurship opportunities. These entrepreneurship programs and services leverage the creativity, business acumen, and leadership of men and women cast off from society. Upon release and re-entry into society, former inmates reintegrate into their communities with confidence in a productive, valuable skillset and the ability to provide for their families. Defy celebrates the unique skills and talents of every individual and empowers them to serve others.
These are the stories we crave — individuals and organizations helping those who need it most in our communities. Organizations like ACTS Housing, Phoenix Multisport, and Defy Ventures are composed of the helpers Rogers mentioned. These organizations uphold the spirit of Zaevion’s heroism by giving the vulnerable and forgotten second chances. In a time in American history where tensions run high, we are committed to amplifying these stories of helpers in our communities and reigniting faith in the American people.
As the executive director of Stand Together, Evan Feinberg provides vision, enthusiasm, organizational leadership, and direction. Evan is an experienced leader in non-profit management and social welfare causes. He previously served as the president of Generation Opportunity, a Millennial advocacy organization, and in various roles on Capitol Hill. Evan and his wife, Sarah, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, live in Virginia with their three sons, Luke and twin boys, Zack and Jake.