Non-profits differ greatly from for-profit businesses. If you are interested in starting a non-profit or working in the industry, there’s a lot to learn in order to be successful. Carol Jones is the founder and CEO of Noble Work Organization, an Alabama-based non-profit serving the homeless and displaced. Below, she talks about her motivations behind starting Noble Work Organization, her challenges, and goals for the future.
What inspired you to start a non-profit that serves the homeless and displaced?
I have always, since a child had a heart for the homeless. But as an adult I experienced it first hand. I was homeless for a short while, I slept on the hard, snow covered ground behind a bush in a business park covered with stolen garbage bags to stay warm. I got chased out of the construction dumpster, stairwells of casinos and hotels. I had to dumpster dive in the CVS dumpster for food. They throw away so much food, peanuts, cereal, soups, nutrition bars and chocolates all with a good date on them.
No, I was never a gambler or on drugs, just chose the wrong man to be with. I had to drive from Birmingham to Reno, Nevada, for a temporary job. My car broke down on the way so, I had to take the Greyhound the rest of the way. I got there on Christmas morning. I decided to leave my hotel room to check out the casinos in Reno. When I stopped to ask this lady a question, she kept following me and talking to me. She said that she would show me around and the best places to eat. I took her to lunch. We walked all day together with great conversation. The last place she took me was to a shelter. I met some great people. A gentleman there said to me, “I don’t normally give out my shirts, but I want you to have this”. It had his Army Battalion written on it. I didn’t want to take what was probably one of his last pieces of clothing. But, I accepted it not to hurt his feelings. I was in awe. I didn’t quite know what to say. At the end of the day, I asked God “Why did you show this to me?”. So, I went on about my life.
My boyfriend was very controlling, he isolated me from my family and friends, took my phone every time I got a new one, beat me and ridiculed me. He wouldn’t work because I was making $300 a day. He got me fired from my job. I had no where to go, so the police station suggested that I take a Greyhound back to Reno from California and stay at the shelter. Coincidentally, it was the same shelter. My very first day I was at the shelter and my very last days I was at the same shelter.
My family did help me to come back home to Birmingham. I developed a bad case of arthritis on top of my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I can’t go back to work when my hands don’t want to participate. So, I asked “God what am I gonna do now?’. He reminded me of how humble I was to meet all of those nice people at the shelter. If you were lucky enough and the shelters had room you could get a mat to sleep on inside, but had to be sitting out side from 5:30 AM until 8 PM in the freezing, cold, wet snow. There was no shortage of food. But in order to have three meals a day, you were pretty much confined to staying near the shelter.
There were women with babies in a stroller, with no shoes or jackets on the babies. There were dogs freezing and hungry. I have given my blankets to someone else and someone had stolen it when he laid it down. I had my backpack stolen, where I had just got a few pairs of new underwear from the mission. I had to leave all of my belongings behind, lost my drivers license, birth certificate, and social security card. When my car broke down I had to leave all of my belongings in it and someone broke in it and stole about $5000 worth of stuff. So I had to start all over again in Reno, then had to leave everything behind again because my boyfriend was a drunk and tried to kill me.
A lot of these people had fantastic careers and wonderful families but some way or another lost it all just like I did within an instant.
What has been the greatest challenge in starting Noble Work Organization?
The greatest challenge is skepticism. People don’t want to help because they think we are trying to scam them out of something.
You’re currently raising One Million Pennies for the Homeless. What are some other fundraising goals for your organization?
Our main goal is to open our Transformation Closet to get the homeless into homes of their own, in low income housing and permanent jobs. My dream is to open a (Transformation Closet) which will have 4 showers, 4 toilets, 4 sinks and a closet full of dress clothes for the homeless to borrow for job interviews. Two sides one for men and one for women. I would like to also help them to get their ID’s, SS cards, Birth Certificates. Also, have a van to take them to their interviews.
Home fire and tornado victims can come to our thrift store (My Husbandry Store) to receive a in-store voucher to purchase clothing and housewares to help them re-establish what they have lost. We are currently raising money in order to open the first thrift store.
We will be purchasing sleeping bags, back packs with hygiene products in them. We will provide coats, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, shoes and hot meals each winter through our A. M. P. “A Million Pennies for the Homeless” campaign.
Fundraising Funds for our shelters-The Well House (Human Trafficking), First Light (Domestic Violence) and the Hope House (Cancer Patients and Families) and the Fire House Shelter (Homeless) in Birmingham, Alabama. We also have a Future CEO Program for Single Mothers (NWO’s Women’s Posterity CEO Program).
How can readers who wish to help the homeless contribute to Noble Work Organization?
Volunteers can help by placing our coin canisters at store registers in their area throughout Alabama. They can donate coats, warm clothing, shoes and socks, sleeping bags, back packs, hotels sized shampoos and soaps. They can assist us in making hot meals and passing them out with our Outreach Program. Ask companies and stores for donations to make Christmas Care Packages for the homeless. Help us to pass out our winter clothing, sleeping bags and meals. Donate funds to help us purchase the extra items so that we will have enough supplies to distribute. We need volunteers for our fundraising, our store and virtual volunteers to help with multiple tasks.
How to get involved: https://www.noblework.org/take-action