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Poole College Students Help Keep N.C. Nonprofit Afloat

Twin brothers Evan and Hayden Wood worked with Poole associate professor Turanay Caner to secure $127,000 in funding for a Davidson County nonprofit.

Poole College students Hayden and Evan Wood at commencement
Twin brothers Hayden Wood (left) and Evan Wood (right) pose for a photo at Poole College's May 2023 commencement ceremony with their friend Chavis Lynn (center).

By Jess Clarke

When Poole College students Evan and Hayden Wood agreed to use their business skills to help keep a North Carolina nonprofit afloat, they didn’t know at first how much they were taking on.

And how many people in the community would be uplifted as a result.

The Woods, twin brothers who graduated from Poole College in May 2023, helped their friend Chavis Lynn rewrite a grant application for Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing of Davidson County (SDHHDC). What they initially thought would be just revising a 20-page grant application to United Way of Davidson County became a more complex, intense two-week project.

“The goal became to take an organization we hadn’t heard of before, learn about it as quickly as possible, and then represent it on paper in a persuasive and professional manner,” Evan Wood says. “We went at it until we got sleep deprived enough each night that we couldn’t think anymore.”

The outcome?

In fall 2023 — one year after the Woods started work on the project — they found out that the SDHHDC received a grant of about $9,600 from United Way. And because the SDHHDC used some of the United Way grant information on other grant applications, the nonprofit ultimately was awarded a total of about $127,000 from three other organizations.

“I put Hayden and Evan in a position where their skills would suit the project best,” says Lynn, a recent Carolina University graduate and former SDHHDC volunteer. “I don’t think we would have been able to get the United Way grant without Evan’s and Hayden’s help. It made it much more manageable and comprehensible.”

Lynn got guidance from a few other people for the project, too.

“There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but good cooks,” Evan Wood says.

One of those “cooks” was Poole associate professor of strategic management Turanay Caner, whom Evan Wood asked for guidance. She teaches the MIE 480 Business Policy and Strategy class he was taking at the time.

Caner helped him use what he’d learned in class to rewrite the grant application. That entailed creating a strategic plan that assessed who needed which services from the SDHHDC, how much money would be required to provide the assistance, and how that aid would benefit people.

“I saw a community impact and also a way to help build student skills and social responsibility,” Caner says. “This project aligned very well with Poole’s strategic goal of student engagement and students making a meaningful impact.”

To tackle the project, the Woods benefited most from Caner’s class and advice, as well as from a business writing course Evan took. Caner “had a host of changes for our application,” he says. “Never say no to people with experience.”

By applying their classroom experience in the real world, the Woods, with Lynn, helped enable the SDHHDC to fulfill its mission.

The nonprofit will use all the grant money it received to pay salaries and other operating expenses and buy items for its food bank. Those funds should support about 200 deaf and hard of hearing individuals and families and provide food for about 360 families this year.

The application work by the Woods and Lynn “enhanced all the wording to the next level. Basically, they made us look good. We are grateful for that,” says Tony Labath, a volunteer SDHHDC grant liaison and board member. “We’re just relieved that we won’t have to worry financially for a while. We can now focus more on our clients.”

That focus will include client advocacy and fundraising.

The Woods now use their business skills in jobs in their respective fields. Evan is a material and production planner at Lotus Bakeries. Hayden is a data analyst at Wells Fargo.

The SDHHDC project reinforced for them the impact a few people can have on a community. “The greatest thing was the outcome,” Evan says. “I can’t help but be proud we were able to help a struggling organization get a new lease on life.”

This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.