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story.lead_photo.caption Excellerate Foundation What: Excellerate drives lasting change for NWA through strategy, diligence and decisive action. Information: excelleratefoundation.com

Tell us about your organization:

• Mission: Excellerate drives lasting change for Northwest Arkansas through strategy, diligence and decisive action. We work through collaboration and partnership, allowing each of us to bring our knowledge, talents and resources to the table so we can play to our collective strengths. Together, we can build a Northwest Arkansas where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

• Focus areas: Our strategic pillars are social support, housing and education. In social support, we're helping build diverse social networks across socioeconomic lines that benefit everyone, as well as addressing systemic racism so all people in our region can thrive. In housing, we believe there's more to solving the lack of affordable housing than building more infrastructure, so we're helping build affordable communities. And in education, we're targeting holistic family development, because addressing the development of parents or guardians, and their children, will have the best chance of strengthening the family as a whole.

You recently announced a new name, why is now the right time for the organization to rebrand?

Because the stakes are rising for those who struggle out of sight. Many of our friends and neighbors who are employed and seem secure on the surface are one unexpected event away from financial freefall. An auto repair, a medical bill or a week off work due to illness might be all it takes for these families to spiral into crisis. And since 67% of the jobs in our region pay less than $50,000 a year, more than 150,000 people in Northwest Arkansas face these uncertain circumstances every day.

The Foundation has changed to better fight on their behalf, so our name is changing with it. We are now Excellerate Foundation, which reflects our ongoing commitment to excellence and a new focus on accelerating decisive action. Excellerate will build on its work of the past 20 years by helping drive lasting change that ensures everyone in the region has the opportunity to thrive.

Who are some of your partners in Northwest Arkansas? We're collaborating and partnering with a wide variety of stakeholders -- from corporations, to the faith community, to city and state government and more. We're demonstrating how solutions to some of our region's most daunting challenges could be developed and scaled through creativity, innovation, data analysis and business acumen.

How has the covid-19 pandemic affected your organization? Covid-19 has created a ripple effect throughout the community, and the magnitude of this simultaneous need has been unprecedented. It has tested the region's support services like never before, largely by people who have never needed such services and don't know how to find them.

In the midst of this crisis, Excellerate has stepped forward to identify these regional needs and help fill in the gaps, including:

• Creating more than 5,000 Hark "client plans," which have made more than 15,000 referrals to needed resources and services;

• Leveraging Catalyst Fund NWA -- a financial assistance program created by Excellerate and Walton Family Foundation -- to provide rental, utility and general assistance to more than 1,500 households affected by covid-19;

• Sustaining the services of key nonprofits with $400,000 in emergency grants;

• Working directly with property managers to prevent evictions and remove late fees; and

• Providing data and analysis to area nonprofits to help them receive more than $400,000 in federal funds for rental and utility assistance.

Why do you work for a nonprofit organization? Do you have a personal connection to the mission? If so, what is it? I've had a 15-year history of working in c-suite positions with some of Northwest Arkansas' leading companies. While the difference we made helps the people of Northwest Arkansas, there's no comparison to the responsibility of helping those who struggle just out of sight. It's a humbling role that provides inner drive, knowing people are counting on us for help.

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Excellerate Foundation

What: Excellerate drives lasting change for NWA through strategy, diligence and decisive action.

Information: excelleratefoundation.com

— Carin [email protected]

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