“We’re all here for the right reason.”

Frank McCain, 58, Cycle Breaker

It’s a tall order – working to end poverty.

Frank McCain, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, is the man for the job.

“I am not scared of hard work. I am not scared of having the difficult conversations. I am not scared of making people uncomfortable. I am scared of sitting here doing nothing and our city turning into a city no one wants to move to and everyone wants to move out of,” he says.

Frank grew up in Charlotte, the eldest of three boys in a family dedicated to serving the community and promoting social justice. His mother was a Bennett College graduate, an educator and a school principal. His father was one of the famous A&T Four, who spurred the lunch counter sit-ins that integrated businesses across the country.

“We believe in taking action and being involved the community. My mother and father were both very engaged civically,” he says. “You might imagine that with my father being one of the A&T Four that, over the years, I had the privilege of meeting a lot of civil rights leaders who came to our table. I would be privy to conversations about what was wrong with the world and what should & could be done to fix it… My parents said we had a responsibility to carry the torch. It is our responsibility speak up about injustices when you see them.”

He learned not to judge people by the color of their skin, their religion or their sexuality, but by their actions. “You need to get to know people for who they are. I have always lived my life like that.”

He was a smart kid. His teachers and guidance counselors encouraged him to go to UNC Chapel Hill. One week before school started, he changed his mind and instead went to N.C. A&T State University.

“It ended up being the very best decision for me.” He had gone to an integrated high school, where the culture was still very segregated. “I was just kind of tired of all of that. I just needed to go somewhere where I can remove that kind of obstacle & get a quality education. A&T provided both.”

He studied engineering, but soon realized his people skills would be an asset in the world of business. By the time he graduated, he had his pick of job offers in seven or eight different cities. He decided to go back home and work for First Union National Back at its Charlotte headquarters. Just before he started, they informed him he was needed in Greensboro.

By 23, he was a branch manager. He learned the ropes of financial services and soon started working as a financial advisor managing assets for high net worth individuals.

“What I really loved about that — it was so dynamic. Every day was a different day in the financial markets. It was an exciting field. There were a lot of brilliant people I was working with. I was learning a lot, not just for my clients, but myself,” he says. “I was meeting a lot of different people learning how they had accumulated wealth. People had done it in various ways. I loved hearing their stories. I loved sitting down and helping people plan their futures.”

He also worked in private equity. He helped the Kenan Flagler Business School start a program to encourage women and minority students to go into financial careers.

When his mother got sick, he reconsidered his career path. He became the vice president of Community Investment and Impact at the United Way of Greater Greensboro.

“What I realized is it was perfect for me. It was going to allow me to feel fulfilled. I was going to leave work every day realizing I had done something to help someone who couldn’t help themselves,” he says. “This is my ministry.”

The United Way raises and provides resources for a wide range of nonprofit services throughout the community. It has adopted a goal to break the cycle of poverty and leading people to a path of financial stability. In Guilford County, 68,000 people live below the federal poverty line, Frank says.

Frank’s work involved building relationships with the nonprofit community to better understand their needs and promote and support collaboration between them.

“People had a lot of barriers that were keeping them off the path of self-sufficiency. Lack of transportation. Lack of childcare. Lack of sufficient health care. These weren’t just adults, there were families as well. A lot of times you don’t see all of this in your community if it doesn’t affect you, but it exists.”

The United Way created the Family Success Center, a joint facility where residents can access many support services from nonprofits, businesses and government agencies in one location. There they can receive meals, transportation, and other needs, as well as a coach to help guide them. The first center opened in 2015.

“We are seeing just huge levels of progress that are being made by members of the Family Success Center,” he says.

The promising results lured a big name donor – philanthropist McKenzie Scott, who provided $10 million to the organization in 2020. Still, there are never enough resources to meet all the needs.

Frank still sees reasons to be optimistic. New partnerships with Lincoln Financial and Cone Health to transition Family Success Center graduates into careers. One person just bought their first home. The United Way’s goal is to get 3,000 people out of poverty by 2030. They’re building a virtual platform to provide the same services of the Family Success Center to a broader audience.

Frank – promoted to President and CEO in 2023 – is going to keep working.

“It’s my calling. I have a huge interest in making sure that people in our community whose voices will never be heard around a boardroom table will be heard. I need to be their voice. I need to be at the table speaking for them. We must work together, as a community, to End Poverty. That’s our goal.”

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