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Education + Housing

Made for the Orange County Commissioners as they weigh the value of housing in Orange County, NC.
"The risk of having all the funding support education but not support housing means that you are going to be cutting certain children off from access to that education, and those are the children that are already facing greater challenges. Those are the children that need it most; those are the children that are already at risk for not developing the education they need to live a full and healthy life when they grow up."
Jennifer De La Rosa

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CEF Launches Integrated Services Center (ISC)


At CEF we strive to “alleviate homelessness and poverty” by building relationships with members of the community, encouraging financial literacy and savings, and leveraging the passion and energy of hundreds of student volunteers. To this end, we’re excited to announce that this Fall and Winter, with the help of Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness (OCPEH), we will be launching an Integrated Services Center in our Chapel Hill office that marries our efforts with those of partner organizations in the area.

Many CEF advocates, members, donors, and board members understand deeply that the conditions that lead to poverty and housing insecurity are nuanced and complex. In most cases, there is no “quick fix” to the challenges members encounter. Rather, members must confront a range of issues—systemic, health-related, legal, and environmental—before becoming financially independent and healthy. Organizationally, we understand that in order to provide a quality and whole-person approach to working with members, we must collaborate and integrate services with partners and we are thankful that there are many organizations in Orange County that are able to stand with CEF as we aim to fulfill our mission.

We hope to build on the success of OCPEH’s 100,000 Homes Task Force, which meets monthly and seeks to collectively solve the problems some of our most vulnerable community members are encountering. We believe the next step for our community is direct and continuous collaboration in the service environment.

With financial support and encouragement from OCPEH and our early partners, Housing for New Hope, Critical Time Intervention, Durham VA (HUD-VASH), Orange County DSS, and Love Chapel Hill, we are piloting the Integrated Services Center from mid-August 2015 to February 2016 for the purposes of:

  • Improving program member outcomes in employment, housing, financial literacy, mental health, and health access by providing whole-person support in a setting that reduces unnecessary barriers;
  • Streamlining members’ access to quality person-centered and cross-program services that facilitate the path to self-sufficiency and well-being;
  • Reducing the need for duplication of services between agencies;
  • Leveraging the strengths and capacities of a variety of organizations and their complementary services.

This is a new and exciting endeavor, which will undoubtedly test the ways in which agencies and organizations effectively share information. However, we are certainly not starting from scratch. The ISC is modeled after the templates, research, and rich experiences of leading national agencies and foundations like the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), United Way, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, et al. We believe, with these examples and extensive research to guide us, the ISC will be an innovative mechanism for social service delivery in the area.

To be sure, we will be scrupulously measuring ISC’s impact and results, compiling academic research and gathering our own data and metrics as we move forward. Collaboration, integrated service delivery, and collective impact are essential for success in a non-profit environment that has very limited resources for myriad worthy organizations and projects. CEF aims to expand strategically through its ability to collaborate and problem solve alongside community partners so that we can fulfill our mission.

Please stay tuned to our blog, newsletters, and social media over the next few months where we will post Integrated Services Center updates!



Board of Directors Approves 3-Year Strategic Plan

Click here to read a summary of CEF’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan

After almost a year of meetings with the Board of Directors, the Alumni Advisory Council, Advocates, Members, and Staff CEF is pleased to present the “signed, sealed, and delivered” summary of our 2016-2018 three-year strategic plan. As a blueprint for our future growth and development, over the next three years we plan to:

✓ Work with partners to further integrate financial services into shelters, workforce development, and housing services

✓ Improve our ability to provide holistic support to members

✓ Solidify and strengthen job partnerships to help members achieve satisfactory employment

✓ Promote sustainable transitions into housing that keep members in stable housing

✓ And ensure that we stay happy and healthy as an organization to continue to serve members effectively

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The Music Man — Jay Miller Helps CEF Sing

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The following is a profile of a CEF donor/partner who was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about his life, his motivations, and his experience with CEF. We’re happy to introduce him to the CEF community and to thank him for his support, in all of its forms. We hope to continue to feature partners and donors in our newsletters to thank them and to help tell our story.

To create a musical harmony, the artist stacks pitches on top of each other to produce a chord — a simultaneous sound that is pleasing to the ear. As a result, harmony has come to be used as a descriptor of symbiosis, a relationship where elements work and exist well together, in many different forms.

CEF donor Jay Miller understands intimately the difficulty and beauty of harmony. A Duke graduate (‘80), Jay spent his undergraduate years as a “gopher,” or administrative helper, for famous jazz musician and Duke “artist-in-residence” Mary Lou Williams. Jay, a bass player entering college, happened into Williams’ “The Beginning of the Blues” class in his freshman year.

“I was so taken with that,” he remembers fondly, “I was totally into jazz.” Williams was Jay’s inspiration to start playing the saxophone, and, referencing the time spent working for Williams, he admits, “I was willing to do anything because I could sit in there [Williams’ office] and listen to her practice.”

Music, both playing it and selling instruments, turned into a profession for Jay upon graduation. He opened a small music shop off of Ninth Street in Durham, which he spun into a chain of very successful music stores that spanned North Carolina (“Winston-Salem to Wilmington”).

However, Jay noticed a dissonance in his early post-graduate years while he was playing music professionally, a sound was out of place in his life: “I developed a drug and alcohol addiction.” He explains, “I don’t mind talking about it because I think the stigma is really unfortunate around a lot of mental health issues and I would rather just talk about it and maybe it will help somebody.”

Fortunately, Jay sought help early, consulting a substance abuse counselor in Durham and starting to attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings at the age of twenty-five. He is quick to note, although he maintains sobriety, “I have not really moved past my addiction issues, they are with me every day — it’s something that has to be managed for life for most of us.”

Ever cognizant of the value of the help he received from Durham County, and grateful for his good fortune, Jay wants to give back, “That’s kind of formed my basis in mental health interest.” Helping others, he says, has the added benefit of keeping him “on track” in his daily effort to manage his addictions.

Jay has given back in a big way since selling his music business in 2002. He and his wife Ebeth Scott Sinclair — a visual artist herself ( — started the Shared Visions Foundation to help non-profits in Durham and Orange County, especially those that serve individuals with mental health issues.

Jay’s musical ability to listen for missing notes and fill that space, creating harmony, has equipped him well in the non-profit sphere. To him, creating harmony means offering essential business advice and financial counseling to non-profit organizations and leaders, “I feel like a lot of non-profits suffer from not paying attention to the business of the business, if that makes sense. And so my original idea is that was how I would help non-profits.”

A perfect match for CEF, Jay has already participated in Opportunity Classes and will be assisting with training our volunteers in financial coaching. We are so grateful for the gift of his time and energy, in addition to his generous financial contribution through the Shared Visions Foundation. We’re looking forward to continuing to make music together!


Apply to be a CEF Advocate in Chapel Hill! Training Dates Announced

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If you want to become a CEF advocate in our Chapel Hill office, good news! We are excited to announce our basic advocate training for Fall 2015. This training will be spread out over four weeks and will be jam packed with all the information you need to start your work as a CEF advocate. All four sessions are required.


Fall 2015 Basic Advocate Training:
  • Monday, August 316:30-8pm
  • Monday, September 7, 6:30-8pm
  • Monday, September 14, 6:30-8pm
  • Monday, September 21, 6:30-8pm


Can you make all of these training dates? Do you want to be trained as a CEF advocateIf you answered yes to both of these questions please fill out our application online here:

Completed applications are due on Friday, August 28th by 11:59pm


Please contact Matt Kauffmann, Advocate Program Coordinator, ( or Sharanya Thiru, Advocate Training Coordinator, ( with questions about becoming a CEF advocate.



Annual Report 2014

Click here to read the CEF 2014 Annual Report

CEF is now five years old, and every year that we grow we work to refine the recipe for our “secret sauce.” The essence remains the same, and yet still somewhat a mystery–embedded in the relationships and collaborative work of our members and advocates. But each year, we as an organization continue to learn, grow and change together with all the unique members, advocates, partners, supporters, friends (and you!) who make up the CEF family. Thank you for caring for this community and for CEF, and making all the results shared through this report possible. We appreciate you!



Member Story: Ricky Reams

IMG_0671by Anne Yeung

“Family” is the word that comes to mind when I think of Ricky Reams— it means the world to him. When Ricky and I met two years ago at Housing for New Hope’s Phoenix House transitional housing program, the first goal we tackled was saving for housing. Ricky saved with remarkable fervor, stunning me by reaching his goal of $500 in just four months. But what I will never forget is that the only time he ever deposited less than planned into his Safe Savings Account, it was in the name of family: he wanted to give his grandchildren gifts for the holidays.

Family was also essential to Ricky’s ability to work. Two months after he successfully moved into his own place, we reconnected to work on job searches. After revamping his resume, drafting a cover letter, and practicing tricky interview questions, Ricky was able to find work – he just had trouble keeping it. He confided that ever since moving away from his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, he had been struggling to hold a job: “I get depressed because my family always in Connecticut and I couldn’t go check on ‘em and see ‘em like I want to. So I just get isolated and shut the world down.” Knowing that being separated from his family made it difficult for him to maintain employment, my co-advocate Stephanie Colorado and I set about making sure he knew he could have “family” in Durham, too. Every Thursday morning, we met Ricky at Whole Foods to play cards, talk about life, share stories, and just spend time together.


Today, Ricky will have been employed as a Donations Ambassador at Habitat ReStore of Durham and Orange Counties for almost half a year and will proudly tell you, “Everything been going so good at that job! I love to go to work … I come in there smiling and happy every day.” He will also gush about the newest addition to his family, a childhood friend who he only recently found the courage to approach, “We gonna get married – I’m talking ‘bout we gonna jump the mop, we ain’t gonna jump the broom! Right now, we feel like we 40 years married. She’s a beautiful woman and I love her to death.”

Hanging out with Ricky was my small part in helping to make sure depression wouldn’t keep him from doing what he loves – but, selfishly, it was also my way of basking in his good nature. He’s the kind of person who, when I vented about people who I thought were being nasty, reminded me, “You know what you do to people who make you feel that way? You pray for them.” If you ask him his secret, he will shrug, “I’m like the same person every day, try to uplift people, ask them how their child doing, how’s your day – that’s just me.” It is infectious. Each time we met – whether it was to open an affordable credit union account, sign-up for e-statements to reduce fees, budget for his new housing expenses, file back taxes to avoid garnishment, stow the cash he had from selling his van into his Safe Savings account, or connect to Legal Aid for help dealing with an exploitative landlord – he uplifted me with his spirit. He became somebody I could call if stressed or angry. He became somebody who, when I share with him that I’m scared to head to medical school but am trying to be brave, he tells me “I’m proud of you, Anne” and I choke up. Ricky is family.