What strikes you about Carroll Gennings when you first meet her is her outgoing personality, her laugh and her willingness to talk about her family’s foundation. Having recently settled in Mint Hill, Gennings has spent much time relocating her insurance business into an office here in our area and is heavily involved with A New Leaf Foundation, a 501(c )(3) charity founded by, of all people, her daughter Laura.
Gennings is a successful entrepreneur and recently celebrated her 20th year in business as owner of Group Insurance Solutions, a full service insurance agency. Gennings developed a zest for the insurance industry after working 8 ½ years for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC. What made her start her own business? Even though she enjoyed working with brokers and helping their clients with group insurance needs, she decided that working directly with clients would be even better. Moreover, she treats her clients like family. Born in Petersburg, Va. Gennings and her family moved first to Mississippi and then settled in Jonesboro, Ark. where she met her husband John in high school. Recalls Gennings, “I was volunteering at the track meet my freshman year and he was a junior running in one of the events. I was holding the tape at the finish line and that is where we first really noticed each other!” After John graduated from college, they married and settled in Little Rock, Ark. while Gennings completed her Marketing degree at a local university. Together they have two adult children: Laura, 26, who is a business tax accountant at a large accounting firm in Charlotte, and son, Matthew, 23, a recent graduate of Appalachian State University where he’s earned a degree in Management and Entrepreneurship.
Her husband’s job actually brought them back to Charlotte in 1988, where they lived in South Charlotte for the last 28 years and have now settled here in our community. But what’s so special about their contribution to our area? Their volunteerism and charity work. First, a little background on Gennings. She’s always been a lover of all things Christmas and wanted all children to celebrate as she has, with joy and lots of excitement on Christmas morning.
Gennings was especially affected by the children who were without parents. While working at Blue Cross Blue Shield, she went to a local orphanage (a client she covered), and asked if she could start a toy drive and raise money to give presents to the children for Christmas and with that, the concept of Adopt-A-Child was born.
A few years later, Gennings brought her Adopt-A-Child concept to a local inner city church where she and her family helped with the after school program held on site. These children were from neighborhoods infected by gangs, drugs, prostitution and engulfed in poverty. They were seeking safety in these after-school programs. Her daughter Laura would hear from the kids how their mom or dad lost their job and couldn’t pay rent or how one of her students couldn’t sleep in their bed because their parents didn’t have enough money to fix the leak in their roof (that leaked water and made the bed wet). Laura was so touched by the plight of these kids and their families she thought how great it would be to start a non-profit that takes a holistic approach to serve families from inner city Charlotte. With the help of Carroll and her husband, a then 16-year-old Laura started the New Leaf Foundation.
The New Leaf Foundation has several programs that help raise money for families in need, one of which is the Adopt-A-Child program modeled Gennings’ original idea during Christmas. The Adopt-A-Child program set a record in 2016 for raising enough money to help 90 at risk kids and families with Christmas gifts and necessities, donated by various companies around the area. They also raised enough money through their Adopt a Family option, to help with urgent financial needs (such as utility bills and rent payments). These families are literally moments from being put on the street when New Leaf steps in and lends a helping hand. Gennings has stories of how the rent hasn’t been paid and the mom has her two kids packing up to get sent out into the streets. With the help of New Leaf, Laura and her father (with the help of volunteers), will swoop in and put together a plan of action.
The families in need are vetted, stories are checked out and arrangements are made to pay what needs to be paid directly to the companies the families owe money to. However, the help doesn’t end with the payment of past due amounts. Laura and her dad work with the people in need and go over the family budget to make sure they can make the move to get out of the situation they’re in. They not only help in a case-by-case emergency situation, but they offer guidance in breaking the cycle of constantly getting caught in these emergencies. Another wonderful thing about this foundation is that 100% of the money goes to those in need. Not one penny of monies donated goes to any administrative costs.
Christmas time is extremely popular for communities to help with donations, but it’s important to note that these programs need help year round. Please go online and visit New Leaf Foundation’s website at www.newleaffound.org. Once again, all money goes to those in need and no money is used for administrative costs. Donations are tax deductible.
Next time you’re strolling around the great little town of Mint Hill and you see Gennings, feel free to chat her up about the life she leads. She will tell you heartwarming stories about her family’s charity work with New Leaf Foundation and how much she enjoys living in the Mint Hill area.
For more information on Group Insurance Solutions, contact Carroll Gennings at 704-543-9314 or visit her website at www.groupinsurancesolutions.com.