Maria Macon

Yasmine Regester | July 17th, 2019
Maria Macon (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

Maria Macon (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

If you’ve ever met Charléon Maria Macon you would resolve early on that she is someone special. Just shy of her 74th birthday, Maria has dedicated her life to serving the community and impacting countless people with her business Polish I.N.C., which helps small startup businesses that employ (2-50) employees and infrastructure building for nonprofit organizations. She also is the Founder and Executive Director of the Mecklenburg Council of Elders, Inc. which was formed as the result of a county commission appointment to the cities Community Relations Committee.

Born and raised in Chicago, Il, Maria relocated to Charlotte in 1985 as she climbed the corporate ladder. That move would alter the trajectory of her career and enhance her focus for the betterment of community and family.

Initially, she solely worked with for-profit businesses and volunteered for nonprofits, but realized nonprofits needed much more attention than they were receiving. “Historically, nonprofits led by African Americans failed in their infancy due to the lack of infrastructure development, so when I learned that, I knew I could really help my community and bring about resources, financially and otherwise that they had not had,” says Maria. In 1986, Polish I.N.C. was born, the name stemming from Maria working with artist to ‘polish’ their act and stuck as she moved into the business and nonprofit arenas. The I.N.C. was added later as she began to work internationally, becoming Polish International Nonprofit Consulting.

One of Maria’s main objectives early on, was to show businesses how to leave legacies of wealth instead of just creating jobs for themselves. Though jobs are important, sometimes simply creating jobs only forces one to work harder and not smarter. Teaching business owners how to incorporate their business to protect their personal assets or liabilities then utilize that corporate status to grow the business, has become a driving force.

Early on, Maria primarily worked with construction companies, hair salons, auto repair shops, and convenience stores, in doing so, she said “Some business owners were not aware that their business passions could qualify on some level as a nonprofit effort and receive public support.

The IRS exempt organization Dept. premises is that of “if in fact, you are helping to solve a societal ill then you are entitled to societal support”. So many of what owners were calling businesses were really helping to solve the ills that existed in their disenfranchised communities and would have fared much better had they been operating as a nonprofit organization,” she explains.

The 501c3 tax exempt status allows for public funding to take place but, in many disenfranchised communities the lack of access to information creates a fog relative to the rules and regulations regarding such exemptions that many don’t bother to clear. A huge misnomer with entrepreneurs is that a nonprofit business cannot make a profit or that for-profit business means that you will make one. Yet, when you observe real- world situations, the nonprofit sector is fueling the economy today. Why? because nonprofit organizations do business with for-profit businesses.

“Just about anything you want to go into business for can be structured into a nonprofit organization, with proper infrastructure; from community grocery stores to a construction company that hire former incarcerated to recovering addicts,” Says Maria. To better serve her business and nonprofit community, Maria is a Duke certified nonprofit manager, and a certified grant writer. She is also a certified court mediator and a certified paralegal.

“Early on I had aspirations of becoming a corporate attorney. So, I needed to learn how corporations exist. In that process, within my corporate job I began to learn about setting up corporations, reading bylaws, and taking classes, that gave me the foundation to do what I do now.” She made a nice mark for herself within Corporate America, which afforded her the opportunity to do what she currently does. Now she has clients nationwide and internationally, from El Salvador to Dimona, Israel to the Caribbean.

It’s clear that uplifting others is near and dear to her heart which is why she was appointed to the Community Relations Committee in 2014. She, and the other inductees, were challenged with creating a project that they could work on during their three-year appointment. It didn’t take long for Maria to assemble a committee called Council of Elders which grew into the Mecklenburg Council of Elders, a recognized nonprofit organization and a full-time endeavor.

The idea for this organization was fueled by her work in Chicago when she was with the Chicago Police Department in the White-Collar Crimes Division. She noticed disparities in the interpretation of the law between races and later discovered that when certain groups of people commit crimes, officers merely coordinated with that particular cultural-community’s council to mete out the punishment for the crime that had been committed. This was done void of arrests, mug shots, and paperwork. She wanted to see that type of system in the African American culture and infuse that kind of understanding within Charlotte.

The Mecklenburg Council of Elders, which Maria founded and is the executive director, is a nonprofit organization serving in the area of criminal justice. Under her direction they’re known for their tireless efforts toward expungement of criminal records within the Charlotte community. “We have a mission that encompasses three components: prevention, intervention, and post incarceration that eventually morphed into expungement. The first year we expected to facilitate 50 people for expungement and 300 showed at our session. The second year we expected to expunge one hundred criminal records and a thousand people showed up.” They quickly realized that they had opened a can of worms and no one was paying attention.

Recently the organization introduced other efforts to tackle prevention, such as the Know Your Rights program that takes place every quarter. Their intervention concept offers a Community Peace Walk once a month, in collaboration with the Nation of Islam and The Peace Keepers. They also have a program of Juvenile Court Watch which is a pre-sentencing advocacy program for juveniles during a court hearing to attend a program that would be beneficial to their reformation. In the five years the nonprofit has been able to force a drug house to close, be a part of laws changes in North Carolina and helped formerly incarcerated citizens return successfully from the prison system.

This year, the Mecklenburg Council of Elders introduced Blacks Only: Town Hall meetings that invites only the cities Black citizens to attend to begin to talk with each other, voicing their opinions and implementing positive solutions that would benefit their communities. Despite receiving backlash and criticism of discrimination, the group facilitates a Town Hall meeting every 60 days with no White people, no law enforcement, no elected officials, and no media. The group is preparing for their second Blacks Only: Town Hall meeting this month.

Maria Macon is an absolute force that fights for the betterment of all communities. She recognizes the disparities within the Queen City and works with others in her organization around the clock to remedy those ills. She is a champion for all people and a leader for her own. You may not know that you have been touched by one of her efforts, but chances are, you have.

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