Archive | July, 2014

June 28, 2014: Financial Independence Day


Independence was celebrated a week early in Chapel Hill, but not the celebration that brings about a surge of American patriotism, the annual spike in fireworks sales, and an overwhelming presence of red, white and blue. On June 28th in HOPE Gardens, the Community Empowerment Fund celebrated Financial Independence Day, a spirited gathering to commend our members and all of their accomplishments in the past year.

Members and Advocates alike came out to the gardens to enjoy fellowship, games, and a mouth-watering spread of food. The event, planned perfectly by Chapel Hill advocate Madeline Ives, kicked off with a reading of the Declaration of Financial Independence by Nikkima Santos. Her powerful voice declared and demanded equality and freedom, reminding us all of what CEF values and fights for. The afternoon was hot, but that did not keep attendees of all ages from participating in games of Frisbee and corn hole. Giftcard prizes were raffled to members, and several attendees, both willingly and encouraged by friends, showcased their talents of reciting Shakespeare and poetry, playing instruments, and singing.

Hot dogs and the works were provided by Chapel Hill mainstay, Sutton’s. Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe generously contributed fantastic side dishes. Another Franklin Street favorite, Mediterranean Deli, spiced the picnic up with hummus, pita bread and rice. Others brought homemade sides to add to the array of options. A variety of homemade pies from HOPE Gardens and a cookie cake decorated like an American flag ended the feast on a sweet note.

It was an afternoon filled with friends, family and laughter: a time to relax and be together, which painted a beautiful picture of the community CEF has fostered since opening its doors.



Written by: Omar Kashef, Housing Specialist Intern with CEF-Chapel Hill

On June 2, 2014 CEF Advocates showed up in full force at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh for Moral Monday focused on Environmental and Health Justice. Moral Monday, organized by the NC NAACP, is a large coalition movement of organizations, nonprofits, and North Carolinians that are discontent with the repressive policies enacted by NC’s largely conservative General Assembly. NC’s Governor Pat McCrory, his administration, and much of the General Assembly have worked tirelessly to silence Moral Monday protesters by recently enacting various laws with vague definitions of “imminent disturbance.” This gag order allows police to arrest those singing or chanting that would interfere with “normal conversation levels” in the legislative building[1]. However, these laws have not perturbed many CEF Advocates from attending the Moral Monday protests through a shortened legislative session.

One running hashtag that popped up amongst many of our signs is #GTHDE, or Go To Hell Duke Energy. Governor McCrory worked for Duke Energy for over 25 years and has been under scrutiny regarding his lenient attitude towards a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant. Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal and is often dumped into specific sites. There are over 30 of these sites in NC. The Duke Energy pipe running underneath the Dan River ruptured on February 2nd, leading to the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.[2] However, a recent bill that is being pushed through by the NC Senate would require Duke Energy to remove all of their coal ash dumping sites by 2029. The costs associated with removing the coal ash ponds cannot be transferred to consumers via increased rates. Duke Energy is allowed to petition for rate increases if deemed necessary after a moratorium on rate increases is ceased in 2015.[3] Considering that households making less than $50,000 spend 21 percent of their income on energy bills as opposed to households making more than $50,000 spending only 9 percent of households, rate increases disproportionally affect lower income communities.[4] The bill running through the NC Senate will hopefully ensure that costs related to removing coal ash dumps are not passed on to Duke Energy’s customers!

Perfectly stated by D.J. Gerken, lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, “Duke [Energy] has profited from doing the cheapest thing for decades, and it’s now time for them to pay the bill.”[5] Until these spills, Duke Energy would have continued to pollute NC neighborhoods via potential groundwater contamination from these coal ash dump sites. Moreover, these dump sites tend to be located near low income neighborhoods with many being neighborhoods with predominantly Black and other minority members.[6] While the NC Senate is headed in the right direction, Duke Energy may continue to try and wiggle their way out of these demands. So for the meantime…#GTHDE!


[1] Hall, Mike. Hey, North Carolina, Our Freedoms Were Built Through ‘Imminent Disturbance’ (2014)

[2] WUNC. The Latest News on The Coal Ash Spill in Eden, NC (2013)

[3] WUNC. State Senate Files Coal Ash Regulation Bill (2014)

[4] Southern Studies. Institute Index: A call for racial justice in energy policy (2013)

[5] Murawski, John. Duke Energy’s $1 billion cleanup: Who would pay?

[6] Wireback, Taft. Coal ash could leak from landfills, environmentalists warn (2014)


From Koozies to Cars

Dawn celebrates her new car!

Dawn celebrates her new car!

By: Jill McMahon, CEF Advocate and Finance Specialist Intern

It was an exciting Monday morning at CEF when we found out that one of our members Dawn was going to get a car! Thanks to the man behind the sign (Jim Kitchen) Dawn received a Chevy Malibu to call her own. Dawn is the second recipient of a campaign led by Prof. Jim Kitchen’s class at the UNC Business School. In May, Prof. Kitchen’s class presented a car to our member Loretha, who needed reliable transportation for her job as a CNA. Through Kitchen’s Trade-for-Help program, she was able to receive a Lincoln Town Car.

As we rolled up to Carol Woods where Dawn worked and anxiously waited to surprise her, Mr. Kitchen explained how he was able to get the cars for CEF members. In addition to being an entrepreneur and an active community member, Jim is also a professor in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. His class partook in their own Trade-Up Project, an idea based around bartering objects for other objects of increasingly greater value. Each student began with a koozie, with a mission to keep trading “up” to gain something more substantial. Eventually (and unbelievably), 76 koozies turned into 2 cars.

This will have a huge impact on Dawn’s daily life, as she will now be able to consistently get to work on time and to her medical appointments. As a new advocate to CEF, seeing Dawn receive this car was something really special. As we all gathered to share that moment with Dawn, I realized how important community relationships are and how these different relationships and resources can combine into something powerful. Huge thanks to Jim Kitchen and his students for making that moment possible!


If you’d like to read more about Dawn, Loretha, and Jim’s stories, see the following links:

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

Chapel Hill: 919-200-0233 Durham: 919-797-9233