The Compound Foundation (TCF), co-founded by singer/songwriter Ne-Yo, recently completed a four-city, four-day Giving Tour. The nonprofit organization’s tour stops gave the charismatic and prolific entertainer the opportunity to spread holiday cheer to youth living in group homes and foster care.
Currently in its seventh year, the Giving Tour is TCF’s annual partnership effort with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). This year, the program visited New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and finished in Atlanta. Over 400 kids in each city were given stuffed animals, action figures, Carol’s Daughter cosmetics, video games, bicycles, high top sneakers, clothing, school stationary, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and hair care products for Christmas gifts.
Relaxing in a plush red armchair in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis’ Atrium Ballroom, Ne-Yo spends the bulk of the evening autographing posters and interacting with the kids. TCF President and Chair, Loraine Smith, is also Ne-Yo’s mother. She affectionately refers to Ne-Yo by his middle name, “Chimere.”
Smith thinks activities like the Giving Tour are priceless moments for her to bond with her son. “You wouldn’t think it would be very private because we have 500 children in every city. I get to see him give back, interact with the children and see their reactions. That just brings me the greatest joy. It’s just being a proud mom,” says the petite, soft spoken Smith with a radiant smile.
Clearing his throat as he sends a text message from his iPhone, the 31-year-old performer born Shaffer Smith ponders briefly as he responds. The artist draws parallels between his recording career and charitable work.
Ne-Yo is suddenly flanked by his two young children, Madilyn and Mason, in the hospitality suite prior to entering the ballroom. “As a songwriter from the outside looking in, I can understand how a person can view what it is that I do as somewhat leisurely. With this philanthropic work, it takes a lot of patience, hard work and dedication much like being in the music industry. You don’t get to see the hours, days and weeks in the studio. All you see is the end result,” says Ne-Yo.
Smith further acknowledges love as the common denominator between “Chimere’s” songwriting and philanthropy. “Love transitions. It’s not necessarily always about a man or a woman even though it might sound like that on the radio. These kids just need somebody to tell them it’s gonna be okay. They can call one of our volunteers and get that hug over the phone,” says Smith still smiling.
Ne-Yo’s hits include “Miss. Independent,” “So Sick,” “Closer” and “Let Me Love You.” The multi-talented, Grammy-winning performer and BGCA club alumnus’ knack for churning out his infectious brand of empathetic hit singles has earned the vocalist the title of Motown Records’ Senior Vice President of A&R.
Ne-Yo’s sought after “midas touch” for melody and penmanship also earned him placements with a range of talent including Beyonce, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion, Leona Lewis, Megan Hilty, Lindsay Lohan, New Kids on the Block, Chrisette Michele, Mario and Janet Jackson among others.
As for TCF, the organization’s other programs include a five-day entrepreneurship training camp on a university campus and music therapy via building recording studios in group homes. TCF also provides need-based grants and scholarships.
“Chimere” knows his popularity and success requires him to pay it forward. “Hard work is what gets you the success. It’s not something that comes easy or comes quick. Music is a powerful thing. You can change the world if it’s done right,” says Ne-Yo.
Smith concurs that her son has a giving spirit. “Ne-Yo cares about people. He has a human heart. He’s more than just someone that you see on TV. He’s not just in the business for money or fame. He actually believes and understands that he’s blessed to be a blessing to other people,” says Smith.
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.