Carrboro Commons

Magazine brings HOPE to the homeless community

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in A&E,Features,inter-faith council by jock

By Amelia Black
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

When the Homelessness Outreach Poverty Eradication committee of the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus Y completed their award-winning documentary “Faces of Franklin” in the spring of 2008, the committee members were exhausted but not satisfied. After hearing the powerful voices of the Chapel Hill homeless community through the documentary, naturally the next question for HOPE leaders was, “What’s next?”

black_hopefrinal.jpg Devin Routh, second from right, an English Major and who volunteers with HOPE, leads a discussion on editing poetry during a weekly writing workshop at the Inter-Faith Council men’s residential facility. Residents meet every Wednesday at 7 p.m. to prepare stories and poems for the magazine Talking Sidewalks.
Staff photo by Amelia Black

What came next was another trailblazing project that would give the homeless in the Chapel Hill area a continuous outlet for sharing their stories and lives. Talking Sidewalks, a literary magazine composed entirely from homeless authors and artists in the Chapel Hill area, was born.

The first issue of the magazine was released last fall, and the second issue is being released Wednesday, April 1, during HOPE’s Poverty Awareness Week.

“They came to us and were like, ‘What do you want from us?’ And we were like, ‘Well, what do you want from us?’” said Thomas Baker, one of the magazine’s artists, on the beginning stages of the project. Baker had been recently dropped off at the Inter-Faith Council’s men’s residential facility on Franklin Street by his wife because of marriage difficulty when he heard HOPE was trying to start a paper for the homeless.

Baker, who has a love for writing, felt excited about the prospect of the literary magazine and worked quickly to get other residents at the shelter involved.

Community Dinner showcases local diversity

By Sarah Shah
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Undaunted by relentless rain and frigid temperatures, more than 600 people made their way to McDougle School in Carrboro on March 1st for an afternoon of food, entertainment and good company.

shah_communitydinner1final.jpg Attendees at the 12th Annual Community Dinner listen to local performance group ‘Eat Local’ explain the importance of buying and eating locally grown food. The event held at McDougle School on March 1st was a zero-waste event, in which 95% of all waste was composted or recycled.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah

The 12th Annual Community Dinner, sponsored by more than 60 restaurants and local businesses, sought to celebrate the cultural diversity of Orange County through food and entertainment, said Nervys Levy, chairwoman of the Community Dinner Committee.

“We want the dinner to be a mirror of the community,” Levy said. “A mirror of who we are as Orange County in 2009.”

A mirror of who we are

Levy said the dinner also serves as a subtle community-building activity in which participants learn about people who are very different from themselves.

“The idea is to come sit with a stranger, and leave with a friend,” she said.

Marcia Corprew, owner of Town Planner Community Calendar, who has attended the dinner for the past three years, said her favorite part of the event was the diversity of people.

“People come from all slices of life, and no one has any pretentiousness,” she said.

With the goal of showcasing the community’s diversity, event organizers invited a variety of performance groups ranging from Joy Williams, a specialist in African dance, to East Baile Latino, a Latino dance group from East Chapel Hill High School. Associate priest II Dug from the Won-Buddhist Temple blessed the food.

Levy said this year event organizers also wanted to focus on the inclusion of the Spanish-speaking and youth communities. For the first time, the dinner featured Marisol Silva from El Centro Latino as a Spanish-speaking emcee.

Several youth performance groups, such as Cedar Ridge High School Choir, also provided entertainment. Levy said she hoped these groups would inspire others.

Dr. Rilandra Batise, a psychologist from Carrboro whose nephew performed at the dinner as part of the all-boy pop band Prince Miah & the Girl Toyz, said she was thrilled to attend an event that focused on kids doing positive things.

“I’m ecstatic to see we have a future,” she said.

shah_communitydinner3final.jpg Longtime volunteer Kara Baldwin (right) and psychologist Dr. Rilandra Batise dance as the all-boy pop band Prince Miah & the Girl Toyz performs at the Community Dinner.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah

Levy added that the dinner was a zero-waste event, meaning that more than 95 percent of all waste would be recycled or composted. Even the silverware was made from cornstarch, and event organizers tried to use locally grown food whenever possible.

Sujan Joshi, a UNC-Chapel Hill senior from Raleigh, said she loved the wide range of people and performers.

“I think [the dinner] accurately represents our community,” she said. “It’s a really diverse group.”

A democratic bank

Levy said the dinner would not be successful without the community’s generosity.

“We wouldn’t have this dinner if people didn’t want it,” she said.

Event organizers made a strong effort to underwrite ticket costs for needy families. In doing so, the dinner has become a “democratic bank of food and resources in which everybody wins,” Levy said.

This year, many people attended from the women’s shelter and emergency housing, and all leftover food was donated to the Inter-faith Council.

Levy added that the dinner was particularly challenging this year because of the economic recession.

The Inter-faith Council has seen an increase from 1,000 to 2,000 people using the pantry since last year alone, she said, posing an even greater financial obstacle for the dinner, which seeks to be all-inclusive.

Despite this, most restaurants were still more than happy to donate food, Levy said.

“They’re doing their best,” she said. “Generally speaking, I’m just amazed at the generosity of our donors. They know we have families in need.”

This year, attendees ate food prepared primarily by Mildred Council- better known as Mama Dip- with the help from Mint Indian Restaurant, Bandidos Mexican Café and chef Brian Stapleton from the Carolina Inn.

shah_communitydinner2final.jpg Tom Koester, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill from Alexandria, Va, serves food at the Community Dinner. More than 60 local businesses and restaurants sponsored the event.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah

Other restaurants including Jade Palace, Open Eye Cafe, 35 Chinese Restaurant, Margaret’s Cantina and The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group donated side dishes and desserts.“We’re all in the same community, so of course we’re going to participate,” Rupinder Singh, assistant manager of Mint, said.

Greg Overbeck, marketing director of The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, said that the group, which includes 411 West Italian Café, Squid’s, 518 West Italian Cafe (in Raleigh), Spanky’s Restaurant and Bar and Mez Contemporary Mexican Restaurant, participates in the dinner every year.

“We really believe in giving back to the community,” he said.

More than 35 businesses such as the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce, the Strowd-Roses Foundation and The Carrboro Branch Library sponsored the event, and an additional 80 to 90 volunteers helped out, Levy said.

Manny Stein, a volunteer from Chapel Hill who has attended the dinner three years in a row, said he arrived at the dinner three hours early to help set up.

“I think the dinner is a wonderful innovation,” he said. “The community is really putting out a creative effort.”

Levy said several different groups helped with arrangements, including students. She said students from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work dealt with parking and food pick-up. Other churches and organizations helped to set-up the event.

Event emcee Ron Stutts from WCHL Radio has been emceeing the event for the past six years, and said this year’s dinner was a huge success despite the bad weather.

“The dinner is always a successful event,” he said. “But this year was the best ever.”

Volunteers organize food for Carrboro children

by Kelsey Kusterer
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Friday marked the addition of fresh milk and bread to backpacks full of food packaged for local children by TABLE, a nonprofit located at 205 W. Weaver St. in Carrboro.

TABLE Director Joy MacVane welcomes the additional food because she says most backpack programs in North Carolina don’t offer fresh bread and milk. The bread was donated by Whole Foods Market, located at 81 S. Elliot Road in Chapel Hill, and the milk by Maple View Farm, located outside Chapel Hill.

kusterer_backpacksfinal.jpgUNC-CH seniors Cordon Folds and Sabrina Rainey organize food to be placed in backpacks for local children on Feb. 13. Folds is a nutrition major from Carrboro and Rainey is a psychology major from Raleigh. Friday marked the first issue of backpacks to include fresh milk and bread.
Staff photo by Kelsey Kusterer

“There are a lot of hungry kids in this country; it’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Roger Nutter, owner of Maple View Farm Milk. “There are a lot of problems, but getting people fed is first. TABLE was a way we saw to help this. We donated 30 pints this week for the 30 kids, but if the need increases we will donate more.”

MacVane launched TABLE in the fall of 2007 with husband Ed Calamai and 12 student volunteers from UNC-Chapel Hill. The nonprofit provides backpacks for 30 school children each weekend. Kids who need support with food are identified by their after-school program directors, who seek out the assistance of TABLE.

“I think just with the economy and the way it is, a lot of families are struggling financially, and every bit counts,” said Ivette Mercabo, coordinator of the Airport Gardens after-school program, located at 821 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Chapel Hill. “I know at one time at Christmas time we asked the parents what they really wanted. It was heartbreaking to hear that one parent—she just wanted food. … One of their greatest needs is just to feed their kids.”

Community helps people pay water bills

Posted on February 4th, 2009 in Carrboro Connections,Town government,inter-faith council,owasa by jock

by Allison Miller
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

An increase in rates from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, paired with national economic troubles, means that the Inter-Faith Council is seeing more clients who are having trouble paying their water bills.


Kristin Lavergne, community services director for the Inter-Faith Council, poses inside the organization’s building at 110 W. Main St. in Carrboro.
Staff photo by Allison Miller

In response, the council and OWASA are telling more people about Taste of Hope, an option for OWASA customers to help those who can’t make ends meet. Although OWASA made the option available 11 years ago, the organization is still spreading the word.

“We did a fairly intense campaign in the fall,” said Greg Feller, public affairs administrator at OWASA. “We’re glad we gained over 150 donors (since August).”

As of December, the program had 1,147 donors, about 6 percent of OWASA’s accounts, said Feller. These donors give about $7,000 per year, he added.
The publicity effort included newspaper advertisements and endorsements from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Feller said the program began in 1997, stemming out of an idea at an OWASA board meeting.

When customers join Taste of Hope, their monthly OWASA bill is rounded up to the nearest dollar; so $38.25 becomes $39, with the extra 75 cents going into a fund managed by the council. With 12 months in a year, the maximum annual donation for an OWASA customer is less than $12.

Bigger donations can also be made directly to the council.