Archive | July, 2017

Terry Eaton: My Story

Terry with his Advocate Brittany and CEF Co-director Maggie!

We first met Terry in January of 2017 when he was staying in the shelter at IFC. That day he told us his goals was specifically, “to complete the 12 opportunity class and take advantage of all the benefits that come with it. I’m ready to get started with the savings plan. I’m ready to start with the laptop savings plan, and use savings for security deposit once I secure a unit.”  Three months later he had accomplished his goals and wrote this story to share with the CEF Community. 

May 09, 2017

My name is Terry Eaton, I am a disabled Veteran. I was born in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  My Grandmother raised me, for my parents. They were divorced. So my childhood was pleasant, as I grew older I began to hang out with friends that drink and use drugs. Mind you I was raised well but made bad choices.

My Grandmother made sure I went to school and church, she was a Christian lady. Bless her soul. I graduated from high school but dropped out of college after the first year. I got a grant, didn’t make good grade’s there; again bad choices followed me. I eventually joined the United States Army, managing to keep myself together in order for a better life for myself.

During that time I lost my real father, my mother had remarried long before.  I went on with my life but I began to abuse alcohol and drugs. I became a patient in rehab centers in different States trying to overcome that Demon. It just wouldn’t let go. Even today I am a gratefully recovering addict and I thank God for my life changes. At one time I was a convicted felony, but today, I haven’t been in any legal trouble in over 7 years because of faith and belief in change.

I pray each day to my higher power to guide me and show me the way he wants me to live.  Today I am a member of White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina where I am a resident. To get to where I am today is a miracle within itself, and the IFC Shelter and the CEF  (Community Empowerment Fund) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina gave me most of the spiritual belief that things would get better for me.

This is how I got there, from my last and hopefully never again relapse from the Demon  I mentioned earlier in my story. They are great people there at both organizations, who care for men and women in need of a second, third, or an even fourth chance at life. I know because I was one of those men, who reached out for help and they gave it unselfishly. I thank all of you. Today I have a new apartment and am about to start classes at Durham Tech, in Durham, North Carolina. Soon I will be getting back to work. God is merciful.

P.S. I hope my story was inspiring to whoever needs hope.

Good Luck!!!


We’re Hiring: Financial Coaching Specialist

The Community Empowerment Fund (CEFis seeking applications for 1 Americorps Member focused on financial coaching for individuals experiencing homelessness or financial insecurity. In this position, you will work to deepen the impact and expand the reach of CEF’s Financial Coaching program while working directly alongside CEF Members as they strive to gain employment, secure housing, and build financial stability. You’ll serve as a key leader for CEF in Durham County and collaborate with CEF’s Chapel Hill office to shape programs that work for the organization as a whole.

Click Here to learn more about the position and to apply!


Our 2017 Summer Interns

The CEF summer internship allows those seeking a transformative summer work experience an opportunity to work full-time in one of the CEF locations. Our full-time interns are a main source of fuel during the summer, powering our offices while many Advocates are away. Interns spend about half their time meeting with Members and the other half working on various projects, everything from resource building to communications!

Hover over the images below to read about them and their work!


Gabi Stewart

Continuing Education Specialist Intern

Gabi is a rising senior at Duke majoring in classical languages. She is leading efforts to create and strengthen relationships with local organizations who provide education continuation services. She is also developing resources on Connect (our internal database) that will provide Members a streamlined interface for accessing resources! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and playing music. She is also training for a half-marathon!

Varun Prasad

Resource and Financial Coaching Specialist Intern

Varun is a rising sophomore at Duke majoring in statistics and economics. This summer, Varun is working to build resources by receiving Member feedback to constantly improve our services. He is also working on building up our pathways and refreshing information to place people into housing. In his spare time he enjoys exploring new places and watching his favorite TV shows.


Nijah McKinney

Communications Intern

Nijah is a rising senior at NCCU and a mass communications major.  She is serving as the site coordinator for communications in the Durham office, gathering content and utilizing CEF social media and online platforms to expand CEF’s online outreach. She is also creating a Member Success Board to get more members to share their experiences and journey with CEF. In her spare time, Nijah loves to sing, write music, and read! “I am a creator who just loves to create!”

Christiana Oshotse

Healthcare Resource Specialist

Christiana is a rising junior at Duke studying public policy and chemistry. She is working to create and improve upon Member Goals that address the healthcare needs of Members. She is working to survey members to determine their most pressing healthcare needs. She is also creating and improving upon resource documents that serve as information guides for Members and Advocates regarding affording health care and dealing with medical debt. She loves to read, journal, spend time with God, and have fun with family and friends

Vishnu Gottiparthy

Pairings Project Specialist Intern – Duke Engage

Vishnu is a rising junior studying electrical and computer engineering and computer science. He conducts research on similarly-structured local organizations to better understand how they effectively build relationships between their staff/volunteers and community members. In his spare time, he enjoys dancing and reading.

Grace Mok

Housing Advocacy Specialist Intern – Duke Engage

Grace is a rising junior studying economics. She worked closely with Janet on organizing the Mayor’s Landlord Roundtable. She assisted in crafting the content/tone of the event and coordinating circulation of the event invitation. She enjoys spending time with her slow-cooker, her recently acquired soulmate.

And a special thank you to Sam, our Office Beautification Assistant, and Beini, our Outreach Specialist and Duke Engage Intern

Chapel Hill

Kaelan Forbes

Employment Specialist Intern

Kaelan is a rising junior at UNC studying economics and entrepreneurship. This summer, she is working to strengthen the partnership with Inmates to Entrepreneurs, an organization that supports former inmates by giving them the resources and tools to start their own businesses. Kaelan also manages our updated list of job opportunities in Chapel Hill. In her spare time, Kaelan enjoys running and cooking with fellow interns


Tamar Chukrun

Housing Specialist Intern

Tamar is a recent Carolina graduate with a degree in nutrition from the school of public health. She works to keep an updated list of available units in the Carrboro and Chapel Hill areas. She is also conducting research on subsidized housing complexes in the area in order to embed a subsidized housing goal on Connect and works closely with Members transitioning into housing. In her spare time, Tamar enjoys going to the gym, baking, and reading.


Hannah Factor

Impact Specialist Intern

Hannah is a rising junior at UNC studying economics and public policy. She serves as the communications site coordinator in Chapel Hill in addition to assisting with content in both the Durham and Chapel Hill locations. She is developing a portfolio of Member and Advocate story/profiles through interviews, audio recordings and data visualization. She is also leading efforts to pilot an online CEF storytelling platform. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking mountains, yoga and cooking breakfast.

Joyce Yao

Finance Specialist Intern APPLES Service-Learning

Joyce is a rising sophomore at UNC. Her projects include transitioning the Renter’s IDA program from its pilot to a wider implementation in Chapel Hill. She is working as part of CEF’s savings team to assist in the coordination of CEF’s partnership with the Common Cents Lab at Duke. She is also working to better integrate “savings moments” into the trainings that CEF offers to Advocates. Joyce enjoys cooking, reading, and now quilting thanks to David and the CEF Quilting Circle.

Justin Willford

Special Projects Coordinator

Justin is a rising junior at UNC studying statistics and mathematics. He works as an assistant to the co-director on donation analysis and fundraising. He also researches available grants, maintains our donation database, and updates our Major Gifts team on donor prospects. In his spare time, he enjoys stand up comedy, listening to music and exploring the triangle.

Keely Kriho

Member Intro Specialist

Keely is a rising junior at UNC studying health policy and management. She assists in the coordination of our Member intake process and facilitates Talking Sidewalks, a weekly discussion-based group in the Chapel Hill Office. She enjoys running, talking about health policy and eating burritos.


Financial Independence Day 2017

The CEF community took over Umstead Park on a warm July evening, filling the park with exuberant joy, music and a hearty celebration. This annual amped up cook-out celebrates one of the major tenets of CEF— financial independence— with food, music, and dancing in the expected CEF fashion.

Financial Independence Day (FID) 2017 exhibited the gold standards of CEF events. Ms. Yvette led the vibrant Advocacy Choir in a CEF renditions of Smile by Kurt Franklin and the brand new You by Germaine Dolley. We celebrated CEF savers with the Safe Savings raffle, fueled by generous donations from local businesses on Franklin Street and in Durham. Hot dogs were served with a makeshift glove while Members and Advocates eagerly volunteered to dish out the amazing side dishes they had brought. The forecast was calling for rain and thunderstorms, but somehow our song and dance kept the rain clouds away!

FID and events like FID are the products of CEF’s prevailing spirit, the essence that has provided me and many others with such a nourishing and edifying environment. This event was a true testament to the resourcefulness, determination, and genuine hearts of the Advocates and Members who are drawn to this organization. We danced to music from the whole spectrum: live instrumental jazz, our very own Member- Advocate trio of Nijah, Gabi, and Ken, and what was described as “the old people playlist” now living on Spotify as a playlist called FID 2017. Mike Alston won one of the prizes again, with an individual from the crowd shouting Go auto-save! We cheered for Cameron’s CEF Alumni Ambassador Award, celebrating his transition into housing and thanking him for his commitment to attending 86 Opportunity Classes and being a great assistant to instructor Mike Wood.

An impromptu dance crew assembled under the compelling direction of Ms. Lorraine. Those who could, stayed back to help us put Umstead Park back together before the rain began to pour. These results are possible through a community that is deeply woven through unwavering support and strengthened through a commitment to compassion.

It was truly humbling to experience such a tangible moment of what makes CEF so great;  my wide experiences meeting with CEF Members is not always so easy to summarize.

While I’m coming to terms with my internship ending and our eventual return back to two office hours a week when the school year begins, I know that there is always these cherished connections with the Members, Advocates, and partners in the area that form the greater web of community that CEF is a valued component of. I am grateful Financial Independence Day continues to be a special joining of those who cherish/treasure/love each other and CEF, culminating in a day of celebration.

Blog post contributed by Joyce Yao, Financial Services Specialist Intern in Chapel Hill and a rising sophomore at UNC

Photos by Emily, Vera & Caroline

A special thank you to sponsors: Market Street Coffee, Buns Burgers, Harris Teeter, Love Chapel Hill, The Yogurt Pump, Holy Lutheran Church, The Parlor, and the Durham Co-op.


Unlocking Doors Video

Produced by CEF for the Unlocking Doors Initiative and the 2017 Mayor’s Landlord Roundtable.

The Unlocking Doors Initiative is a partnership between landlords, non-profits, the City and the Durham Housing Authority. With visionary new leadership at the DHA and a groundswell of community support, we are at a crucial juncture in Durham. Mayor Bill Bell has issued a challenge for us to lease up individuals and families, including veterans, to permanently end their homelessness. Landlords and non-profits, will you consider joining us as a Key Partner?

Learn more at



Growing up and Getting Started

No Matter What. That is what the bracelet on Earl’s wrist reads.  Earl has been sober for 15 months and counting but his memories are fresh from when that was not the case. Earl has been meeting with his Advocate Steven in the Chapel Hill office, pursuing savings and securing employment alongside a 12-step recovery program.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Earl grew up in a large family. “My mother and father had 12 kids, my father was a hardworking man… I’ve seen a lot of things in a young stage that’ve helped me become the person I am today…There was a lot of love,” shares Earl, but “I grew up in an unstable home.” Earl recalls how certain things shaped his relationship with finances. Where I’m from it wasn’t just about savings, it was about trying to survive… my father never had a bank account, never wrote checks so my mother didn’t either.

When Earl first came to CEF in March of 2016, he was skeptical. “You know, I wasn’t sure about what, you know, I could get from CEF. But I found a lot of students from UNC—they really care about the community. They volunteer their work. I know that when people volunteer their work, they’re here for a purpose… I remember my first day at orientation, it started right then and there. There was so much that they offered me to do. They put the guidelines for what I can and can’t do but it was up to me as an individual to follow those guidelines. It was like being in school, if you don’t do the assignment, what’s the good of being in class.

Finding Work and Financial Stability

At CEF, his consistent Advocate meetings manifested into a successful job search where Earl secured full-time employment at the Carolina Ale House. “The job search it was an experience, most of the jobs I had were daily paid labor. I understood I didn’t want that type of job anymore”.  Although the restaurant recently closed, he feels more prepared now for the job search than he did before. “We’re not finished yet. We’re looking for a job. But now I know how to approach it. He’s (Steven’s) already setting the guidelines for me, he’s already helping me prepare for tomorrow… That’s what I learned from CEF. Preparing myself for the future.”

Earl also spends his meetings with Steven working on finances, which includes disputing debts and created payment and budget plans. By making consistent savings deposits, Earl has saved just shy of $4,000. “I came by Tuesday and put $500 in my savings because I know it’s the right thing to do. I love the idea, I really do, of having a savings account.” Earl also opened a bank account at Coastal Federal Credit Union to build even more savings and have access to a checking account! Now, I go to a bank and they know my name. ‘Hey Earl, how you doing Earl?’  Even when I’m not there to cash a check I still go in there, talk my banker, talk about ball, talk about how my life is going.” Earl told us that his banker even offered to be a reference for prospective employers, “she sees something in me that I didn’t see when I first started to open my bank account.”

It’s About Relationships and Family

Earl is paired with Steven but that does not stop him from building connections with other CEF Advocates. “I gave a couple of advocates some names like ‘Sarah Salad,’ ‘Sarah Hotdog,’ ‘Chocolate Ice Cream’, you know, because that’s the kind of bond I built with them.”

Earl with CEF Advocates at the Financial Independence Day celebration

Earl only has words of praise for Steven. “It’s all about the relationship that I built with Steven has helped me focus on things in life that I know I am able to achieve…he always has great things to share with me. He always gives me that positive motivation.” More than anything, Earl believes the key to success is partnership. “I don’t want a handout. Just give me a hand… Show me, guide me, pull me along the way.  Just give me that, “you can do it.” That is the hand I need.”

So what exactly is Earl saving for? Family. “I have 3 sons, 3 grandsons and we have never all been together at one time…We’ve never been together. Every day I get a little older. We’ll get together and play a game of basketball…That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to save some money too. One day man, one father’s day man, there’ll be that love, that unity.”

Earl and his Advocate Steven in the Chapel Hill office


CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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