Archive | Written By Advocates

Meet Our 2019 Chapel Hill Interns!

Meet Serena.

Serena Singh

What brings you joy?

Advocating for what I believe in brings me so much joy. I have seen firsthand the power of activism, and every baby step towards tangible change is always so refreshing. Additionally, the people closest to me bring me more joy than anything. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know I can depend on a core few to stand in my corner.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The perspective I have gained on oppressive systems and the world as a whole definitely excites me the most. I learn so much every single day I’m in the CEF Office, and I am incredibly grateful for the advocates I’ve met, the members I’ve worked with, and other community individuals I’ve had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

One of the first meetings I ever had as a full advocate, I was asked to help a member write a paper for a class that was due at noon. It was 11 and we only had an hour, but together we cranked it out — MLA format and all! She was so appreciative and gave me the biggest hug. That was a fantastic way to begin my experience with CEF!

What brings you joy?

People and the little things around me bring me joy! I love seeing how people interact with each other and the world around them – I get joy from my everyday interactions with people, whether it’s talking with an old friend or sharing a moment with a stranger.

What about CEF excites you the most?

Everything! I love the philosophy at the heart of CEF – it’s so genuine and inclusive. I really love getting to know more people from the community. CEF is so exciting because I get to build relationships with really great people while also engaging with issues of injustice in a meaningful way.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I ran into a member I had been working with every week a few semesters ago on the bus the other day! She had gotten a job that she’d been wanting for a long time! It made me so happy to catch up with her.

Meet Sophia.

Sophia Janken

Meet Joy.

Joy Stouffer

What brings you joy?

Running, cooking, reading books (especially realistic or historical fiction). Sitting on my porch drinking coffee.

What about CEF excites you the most?

I love that I can collaborate with a wide variety of people, from members to staff to other advocates, in order to convey that each and every one of us is important and should be heard.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

My freshman year I worked with a member who needed immediate housing. We had to call several shelters in the area and finally secured him one at a spot in Durham. This experience was meaningful to me because I realized that housing is definitely not a guarantee–each night in your own home is a gift.

What brings you joy?

Conversations that lead to meaningful connections bring me the most joy. There is so much to learn from the people around us and I could sit and listen to stories of lived experiences all day. It makes me happy when someone can trust me and I can trust them – creating a bond.

What about CEF excites you the most?

The members excite me the most because they come in with hope for a better quality of life and it’s exciting to be on the passenger seat helping them while they drive and take control of their life.

Share a story about a meaningful moment that you attribute to your experience with CEF.

I was working with a member from Russia for about 2 hours and we ended up talking more about his time there and lessons he’s learned.

Meet Inaara.

Inaara Mohammed
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Meet Rosa: CEF Staff Interview

Rosa joins CEF's Staff in Durham in a new position as the Office Services Coordinator in Durham!

What led you to this work at CEF?

—Being a Member of CEF and seeing how they directly impacted my life in dealing with stuff with my credit. When I found out there was a position open, I was passionate about working here. This is a job I will have that feels meaningful, and I will go home knowing I made a difference.

Where do you find energy for your work at CEF and where do you expect to find challenges?

I try to handle each situation as if I was the Member. I will try to handle each situation the way I would want someone to handle my situation, if that makes sense. I think it’ll be challenging to keep that work-home balance. It will be challenging because I am both a Member and an employee of CEF. It will be challenging to turn on and turn off that work feeling!

What strengths and perspectives do you bring to CEF?

The strength I bring is that I can directly relate to the Members of CEF because I myself am currently dealing with homelessness. I feel like I bring a perspective of hope, because I mean we don’t expect an employee of CEF to be dealing with homelessness themselves. Hopefully I can inspire someone else to think, “This too shall pass.”

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Meet Tanner: CEF Staff Interview

What will your role be at CEF?

My fellowship at CEF will focus on workforce development and employment in the Chapel Hill Office. A job is a source of income, stability, and security, but it can also be a source of dignity and purpose. We know that an employment search depends on more than a resume — it depends on criminal histories, credit, transportation, and housing — and so my work will touch on these issues as well. I will also lead convenings of service providers, local governments, and employers in the county, working to connect organizations, share data, and create spaces for advocacy.

What strengths and perspectives do you bring to CEF?

I studied Public Policy and Economics at Duke, and hope to combine a racial-equity lens with my training in policy and socioeconomic determinants of life outcomes. I’ve also spent time working on access to HIV/AIDS treatment in South Africa, social policy research at the Brookings Institution, and government/non-profit partnerships in low-country South Carolina. After graduation, I worked at the NC Department of Justice, focusing on predatory loan practices, the opioid epidemic, and sex trafficking, and then spent time at a consulting firm in Washington, DC. I’m new to CEF and know that I have lots to learn; but I am surrounded by members, staff, and volunteers who are brilliant and compassionate teachers, and I hope to draw from their wisdom as I find my grounding in this new work.

What led you to this work at CEF?

What struck me about CEF was not only its effectiveness, but its unique relationship-based approach to service. Relationships make CEF work, and that’s the kind of organization I wanted to join. CEF is also uniquely positioned in anti-poverty work: we really do see everything. There’s no better way to do this work than at the ground level – in the trenches with members every day — there’s also no better way to learn. I’m incredibly fortunate that my role lets me be creative – designing new systems, building community partnerships, and testing new ideas. Our Members bring incredible ability and potential, and I’m lucky to work alongside them to realize their goals.

Where do you find energy for your work at CEF?

I find energy every day in our team – Jon, Sarah, Diiv, Leah, Yvette. I also get a lot of energy from Members. Our wins are shared together as a team, and the victories are deeply energizing. Sometimes those wins are big, like finding a job or a home. Sometimes they’re small, like finishing a resume or securing an expunction. When the caffeine wears off, it’s sharing these moments with the CEF community that keeps me going.

Where do you expect to find challenges in your work?

Barriers to finding employment are real and substantial. At times, I feel frustrated. I can’t always convince an employer to hire someone with a criminal history or find a simple way to make a living for a highly qualified senior. I can’t fix every problem. The work is high stakes, and so it can be emotionally draining. But CEF’s approach offers an answer for this challenge: it is trauma-informed, relationship-based, and supportive of self-care. It seeks to build on strengths, not dwell on challenges. We have fantastic community partners and resilient Members, and with that, there will always be a path forward.

Anything else you’d like us to know?

IF YOU ARE AN EMPLOYER, contact me! (tannerl@communityef.org) Let’s talk about who from CEF would be a good candidate. It takes partners on all sides to do this work, so join us.

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Sharing news from Maggie for the CEF family

Message from Maggie, CEF Co-Director

Hello dear CEF family,

I am writing to share the news that I will be transitioning out of my position at CEF this summer.

CEF has been a place where I have felt an overwhelming sense of call. Called in a daily way to show up, heart and soul, surrounded by a community of people filled with a common purpose. Almost ten years later, I am feeling a need to respond to a different call—albeit one I don’t know yet! I’m sad to leave, and more than a little bit terrified. But I also know it’s the right thing for me in this moment.

I am writing to say thank you. Working alongside all of you has been a gift—filled with people and moments and experiences I will cherish always. Thank you, from my heart and soul, for the ways that literally every single one of you has been a part of co-creating this transformative place. Sometimes, when people ask me how CEF started, I simply laugh and say, “Magic.” So many people have come into CEF and added their magic to this place—their hopes, gifts, prayers, wisdom, labor, and their love. Thank you. The sheer miracle of this experience will never leave me.

CEF is a strong, beautiful organization, filled to overflowing with an incandescent grace. The MembersAdvocatesstaffboardpartnerssupporters, and friends that make up the whole of the CEF family are a glory to witness. As I prepare to transition out of this daily work, I find myself simply saying, “Wow.” How amazing, what we can do and who we can be together. I stand back in particular awe of the CEF staff team, who daily inspire in me an overwhelming sense of peace and confidence that, someday, the world will be right.

I want to say a special thank you to my fellow Co-Directors—Jon Young and Janet Xiao. The three of us have done this work together for almost ten years now, and they will continue to lead CEF beyond my transition. Working with and learning from Jon and Janet has been one of my most sustaining joys throughout CEF’s growth. Their grounded, thoughtful leadership will continue to strengthen CEF as an organization, and our communities as a whole.

I’ll be transitioning out of my position on May 31st. In the meantime, I will work closely with the Transition Team, Board of Directors, Co-Directors, staff team and all of you to make this transition healthily, and in ways that continue to strengthen this ever-growing organization.

All of that said, while I’m taking off my staff member hat, I’ll still certainly be a member of the CEF family. Though I don’t know yet where my soul will lead me next, I do know that I’m not going anywhere geographically; this is home. I hope to stay connected to the CEF community and to be supportive in any way I can. This place is transformative and impactful beyond words, and I know I will love staying in touch and witnessing all of the accomplishments ahead for CEF and our amazing Members and Advocates. Thank you all so very much.

With gratitude, blessings, and love,

Maggie

Message from the CEF Transition Team

 

Eric Breit, Stephanie Barnes-Simms & Brian Smith (CEF Board Members, Current & Former)

Jon Young & Janet Xiao (CEF Co-Directors)

Maggie has played an incredible role in the transformation we’ve all experienced since CEF started as an organization in 2009. She has brought immense dedication, vision, soul, and entrepreneurial gumption to her work. Maggie, thank you. While we can’t help but feel sadness about this change, we are also excited to take this next step with the organization and begin a process of discernment and transition.

CEF is a vibrant and growing organization that now includes over 1,000 Members and 250 Advocates each year. In 2017 alone 153 Members gained jobs, 132 Members moved out of homelessness, and the first 9 Members even purchased their own homes! In exciting news, CEF Members have now saved over $900,000 collectively towards their personal goals. We are growing in impactful ways, and we remain deeply committed to our mission and community. With your active presence and support, CEF will continue to thrive.

The transition team will be seeking input from a wide range of stakeholders, including Members, Advocates, staff, partners, and supporters. We are designing a process and an interim strategy that gives us the space and time we need to be thoughtful during the period following Maggie’s departure. Our goal is to have a third new Co-Director in place by September 1st. You can learn more details here:

We’re so grateful to the whole CEF family for being an amazingly supportive community. As we enter another big year for CEF, and as we continue to adapt and grow, we hope you’ll keep doing what you do best at CEF—whether that’s volunteeringdonatingcoming to meetingsbuilding program partnerships together or singing with the Advocacy Choir. Or, if you are looking to get more involved,we hope you’ll reach out!

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Meet Krista: CEF Staff Interview

Krista: CEF Durham's Neighborhood Engagement Specialist

What made you interested in working for CEF?

I really admire not only the heart that goes into all of CEF’s work, but also CEF’s dedication to constant self-improvement.  As an organization, CEF is always looking to do better and more conscientious work, and that’s something I really wanted to be a part of.

Why do you feel connecting with people is so important?

Connecting with people is what makes this work continue to feel worthwhile even when systems and structures feel like they’re defeating you.  It’s all too easy to feel hopeless after a while, but having solid relationships with members humanizes the daily and drives our work.

Tell us about yourself/background:  

I’m from South Carolina and came to Durham for college.  I studied French and International Studies in college and am enjoying living and working in Durham as a resident rather than a student.

What inspires you?

My coworkers! Working in the nonprofit sector has found me surrounded by dedicated, passionate, hardworking people who strive to make Durham a better and more accessible city.

What do you think will be your greatest challenge in this position?

Definitely balancing the number of different spheres my job occupies.  I have a bit of a jack-of-all trades job, so managing a variety of partnerships, often with very little overlap, is going to be an interesting logistical challenge.

What projects are you most excited about?

I’ve really enjoyed tackling the overhaul of how we present our laptop referral program.  It’s given me the ability to work through how we create our member goals and look at things through both the member and advocate perspective and to create something that will hopefully be with CEF for many years.

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Meet Joy: CEF Staff Interview

Joy Shaver: CEF's Financial Coaching Specialist & Americorps Literacycorp Member

Why do you feel connecting with people is so important?

I agree with Dorothy Day who said, “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes in community.” I keep learning over and over that I need connection with others. True relationships where we risk being ourselves and seeing another person or the beautiful mess they are is the only way any of us can thrive in a world that increasingly seeks to divide us.

What inspires you?

The amazing resiliency and willingness to risk that I see every day at CEF inspires me every day. Whether it is a Members risking trusting an Advocate to help them navigate complicated situations, or an Advocate risking looking silly by doing something that they have never done before to accomplish a Member’s goal. I am always amazed by the vulnerability that is embraced at every level of this organization. And if something doesn’t work the first time no one gives up they just get creative and try something new.

Tell us about your background

I was born and raised in Detroit. I spent my undergrad years in Indiana and then moved to Seattle for four years. I moved to Durham in 2013 to start my Masters of Divinity at Duke, which I finished in 2016.  I have a diverse background in terms of employment. I have done project management for a small technology company, churches, and relationship driven nonprofits.

What do you think will be your greatest challenge?

Honestly, learning the intricacies of our financial system has been a whole lot more challenging than I expected. I didn’t think I was an expert when I started but I thought I understood our financial system a lot better than I actually did. Every time I learn something new it I’m amazed at how well members are navigating a really opaque system.

What projects are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited to help make our internal system better so that our Advocates and Members have more resources at their disposal! It’s a bit of a learning curve for me but I’m really excited to work with our Resources and Financial Coaching team to make our resources more useful!!

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New Staff Welcome: Jess

Jess Mcdonald joined CEF’s Durham team as Advocate Program Coordinator in June of 2017, and we are so thankful for them!

What made you interested in CEF?

I heard about the Advocate Program Coordinator position opening at CEF, and it seemed like the organization’s values, analysis, and visions of change aligned with my own. I’m really interested in doing social justice work that addresses both the day-to-day experiences of individuals and the larger systems that perpetuate inequalities. I’m passionate about doing this work in the South and in my home state of North Carolina in particular. Durham is where I want to plant my roots, and it’s where I’ve found a really strong community of people who are engaged in social justice work. The city has a really rich history, and so many of the struggles today around affordable housing and other issues are deeply connected to this history. I also have a background in social justice education with college students, and I’m really interested in bridging the town and gown divide between Durham and Duke in intentional ways. CEF really brings together several of my passions, and I’m so excited to be joining the team.

Why do you feel connecting with people is so important?

I feel like life, at its essence, is about connecting with people. Especially within social justice work, it’s all about the relationships we form within communities. So often the systems of power, privilege, and oppression are set up to prevent us connecting on a deep level and building that solidarity across difference. Transforming the world starts with transforming ourselves and our relationships with each other. Changing communities starts with one-on-one connections

My relationships with other people are what keeps me grounded and what reminds me why I do this work. We aren’t doing this work in a bubble, and it has real impacts on real people. In that way, connecting with people is also about accountability. Getting feedback about where we’re falling short, where we can grow, and what we need to be thinking more intentionally about is critical to doing meaningful work. Building that trust and communication is all based on relationships.

Tell us about your background

I’m from the coast of North Carolina, Morehead City. It’s a pretty small town. I went to Elon University, which is about 40 minutes from Durham, and I got involved in social justice work as a student there. When I was in college, I would come to Durham occasionally, and I also had friends from Durham. I studied history and sociology, and I did an undergraduate thesis about the history of LGBTQ life at Duke and UNC, so I spent a summer living in Durham and working in the archives in the Center of Gender and Sexual Diversity at Duke. After school, I worked at an LGBTQ non-profit that served college students across the country. After a year or so of working there, I went to grad school at UMass Amherst and got a degree in Social Justice Education, with a focus on intergroup dialogue. I came back to Durham for a little over a year, taught at NC Governor’s School for a couple of summers, and then spent the past year in a fellowship in Asheville. I worked at Our VOICE, a rape crisis center, assessing their services and making suggestions for how they could better serve the LGBTQ community. That was a year-long position that just ended, and I really wanted to come back to Durham, so I’m glad I found CEF.

What inspires you?

It may sound corny, and I feel like I keep talking about social justice, but seeing people coming together for a common cause in hard times like the ones we’re in is very inspiring to me. Whether that’s in response to things like HB2, police violence, gentrification, etc., seeing people come together and fight back against these systems is really inspiring. If you think about it, we are really resilient and powerful people, and getting together with folks to remind ourselves of that is really important for sustaining this work. I also look to history for inspiration, especially social movement ancestors like Leslie Feinberg or Audre Lorde or Marsha P. Johnson. To see yourself as part of that arc of history and understand that the generations that come after us will continue this work is really humbling.

What do you think will be your greatest challenge?

There’s just so much work to do in Durham in general, and at CEF, too. The city is changing so quickly, and we need to be one step ahead in making that growth sustainable for everyone, especially when it comes to affordable housing. Managing all of the Advocates and working to be as efficient as we can with our time, while also centering the importance of building meaningful relationships throughout the organization, is going to be a challenge, but I’m excited to take it on.

What projects are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited to co-teach the house course at Duke this fall. It’s been a year or so since I’ve been in a classroom, and I miss it. I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to pedagogy and facilitation. I love creating spaces for people to explore new topics and have critical conversations that they may not get to have in other parts of their lives. I guess it goes back to the idea of consciousness raising and transforming ourselves in order to transform the world. It’s a lofty goal, but we’ve got to start somewhere. The house course seems like a really amazing opportunity to combine social justice education, community-based work, and structured time for continued reflection to inform that work.

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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.

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Why We’re Founders

From Joe Sircar (UNC ‘12),  Quinn Holmquist (Duke ’16), and Anne Yeung (Duke ’14)

We are writing to those of you who have volunteered with CEF and who may want stay connected—whether you are still in the area or afar. As a volunteer during CEF’s first 7 years, you are a huge part of founding CEF and making it possible, and you’re invited to join the Founders Circle.

We’re a group of CEF old hands who make a small gift of $10 (or $15 or $20) that is automatically drafted each month as a way to sustain and stay connected to CEF and order to help support CEF’s work and sustain its impact in the Chapel Hill and Durham communities. Since we left and now face new challenges in new cities and new communities—CEF has been frequently on our minds.

Joe: One of the things that memorializes my time there is the quote “we are all recovering from something.” CEF is a real community that continues to grow and learn together – and the real impact that the relationships that are forged in CEF continues to make is incredible. I’m sure many of you all would say the same.

Anne: I remember the shared stories, laughs, and meals at Dove House and with Ricky; being invited to try to understand poverty through a human lens; and the opportunity to shape and build a growing organization

Quinn: I’ll always cherish the long car talks on the way office hours, hugs at the Genesis Home, and Wannamaker Common Room 04 (the site of CEF’s house course, which just wrapped up its fifth semester).

Whatever it is that you find beautiful in CEF, we would like to invite you to continue to be a part of that by joining us in the CEF’s Founders’ Circle. You’ll receive a CEF mug specially crafted for Founders’ Circle members Just click here, enter your info, and start giving!  

CEF continues to attract more volunteers, gain more members, add and optimize programs, and make new partnerships. CEF is now serving over 1,000 members in Chapel Hill and Durham, with over 200 active savings accounts, and this year they supported 104 members to secure housing and 155 members to gain employment. In its 7 years of existence, we believe CEF has flourished and exceeded expectations. Let’s stay connected and help them grow.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Joe Sircar (UNC ‘12),  Quinn Holmquist (Duke ’16), and  Anne Yeung (Duke ’14)

Founders Circle - Anne Quinn Joe

P.S Wondering what’s changed since you graduated?  Well, at our core, we’re still the same we think – grounded in the unique relationships between our student Advocates and our Members, and anchored by these consistent Guiding Principles. You can check out these recent Member Stories to see for yourself just how much we’re still the same full-hearted CEF.

In Durham:

Here is a glimpse from then (2012), to now…

  • Then, we visited 3 partner sites and worked with 64 members. Now we work with 350 members in close partnership with 10+ housing and employment organizations, and our very own office, located squarely between Duke and downtown Durham.
  • Then our entire advocate team could squeeze into Janet’s car. Now we have 102 advocates in 10 teams, bussing, walking, and carpooling together to sites throughout Durham.
  • Then we had 0 full-time staff. Then we had half-a-staff. Now we have three dedicated staff people.
  • Then we took appointments and set appointment agendas the day-of. Now, Members schedule meeting in advance, receive systematized appointment reminders, and establish long-term goals alongside to-do lists for each meeting!
  • In 2012, all CEF members saved an impressive $53,091. Last year, they saved a staggering $195,881, and we’ve used behavioral economic best practices to continuously improve the accounts!
  • Then, we were filled with big questions about growth and sustainability. Now, CEF’s work has grown roots and deep partnerships in Durham, charted out in a 3-year Strategic Plan, and featured in national case studies as a model for integrating financial capability into social services.

Thanks to you, CEF has gone from then to now.

In Chapel Hill:

Here are some fun snapshots of how we have changed…

  • We started an Advocacy Choir to sing for change in affordable housing in Orange County!
  • You might be such a golden-oldies Advocate that you remember when we didn’t even have an office, or when our office was basically just that one table at 133 ½. Now, we have a 2,000 square foot space co-locating services with partner organizations in downtown Chapel Hill!
  • Maybe you remember when our Resource Database was a big Google Spreadsheet. Or maybe you remember when it was in a manila folder in the Campus Y! Now, it is a county-wide, web-based, public, and very fancy tool.
  • Perhaps you were here when we offered micro-loans, and a matched savings program was just a glimmer in the eye of some of the first CEF Members (Borrowers at the time!). Now our matched savings accounts have supported hundreds of members to save successfully for their goals, and we’re using best practices to improve the accounts every year! And what’s super exciting? The first 3 CEF Members just used their CEF savings accounts to buy their own homes.
  • Possibly the Advocate training you participated in was just a one-day thing. Now, training is a semester-long process packed with content and shadowing opportunities, with our Financial Coaching Fellows training now a course for academic credit at the UNC School of Social Work. What!?
  • And maybe you were here when all of this was really just an idea, or barely becoming a real thing. Now, CEF has been featured in national case studies as a model for integrating financial capability services into social services.

Thanks to you, CEF has grown in so many ways.

It’s so fun to reflect on just how much has happened and how far we have come! In part because it helps us imagine just how much is still possible! To keep building towards better, we need your support

P.S. We would love to hear from you! What are some of your favorite or most distinct memories of your time at CEF? What do you remember about your time as an Advocate? What experience still makes you laugh when you think about it, or still breaks your heart? What are you up to nowadays? It would be awesome to stay in touch – please comment below and share or email us at founders@communityef.org!

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Six Weeks at CEF

 

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                                                                                           – By CEF Advocates Yasmine Miao & Emma Caudle  

By: Emma Caudle

The past six weeks at CEF have been an incredible learning experience and have given me a new outlook on the world that many members face.  Before this summer I had never stepped foot in a CEF office and only had the slightest idea of what it even was, however it did not take long for me to realize that CEF was much more than the typical nonprofit seeking to alleviate poverty and homelessness.  Perhaps the aspect of CEF that stuck out most to me was how committed advocates and staff were to be more than just teachers or mentors to the members, but rather friends and companions along the journey towards financial freedom.

Member meetings have been one of the highlights of my time at CEF this summer.  I have enjoyed building relationships with other members of the Durham community and have appreciated the experiences they have shared with me.  I have been able to work with members as they applied for jobs, created budgets, started saving, and so much more.  Although 6 weeks is too short of a time to see big changes I was able to see little ones week to week with many members. Moments as simple as a members enthusiasm for depositing money into their safe savings account or a member working diligently to figure out a new budgeting technique assured me that CEF was in fact helping members reach financial stability.

Aside from the more concrete ways I saw CEF make a difference in the lives of many members, it is evident to me how much CEF means on a more emotional level.  CEF is one of the first places many members go in times of crisis and advocates often become trusted confidants.  This was one of the most incredible parts of CEF to me because it showed me how successful an organization can be when it cares for an entire person rather than just aspects of their life.

I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to spend a part of my summer with CEF this year.  I learned more from the other advocates and staff as well as members than I ever could have expected and gained a newfound appreciation for the kind of work that CEF does.  CEF makes a great investment in members who do not always benefit from investments made by the community or government.  Therefore, the work CEF does is critical for the lives of so many in the Durham and Chapel Hill communities.  Thank you CEF for all you do!


by: Yasmine Miao

Before I came to CEF, I was more anxious than excited.I had no idea what my daily routine would be like for the next six weeks. I had no idea what was expected of me. I simply felt like I was wandering into the known.

I had the vague impression that at CEF, I’d be helping people who are experiencing homelessness or poverty, but again, I had no idea as to how.

First day at CEF was the orientation. CEF rented a nice conference room at the American Tobacco Campus, and offered us a full-day “crash course” of CEF, which introduced CEF and its core programs, gave us detailed training on how to be a CEF advocate, and began planning some weekly projects.

I was a bit overwhelmed by all the information thrown to me, some of which I knew little of, such as the differences between banks and credit unions. As to the core programs, one of them would become the main part of our daily work- the “Member Advocates” program.

At the orientation, we were given some examples of what advocates do. In the past, advocates have helped members write a resume or a cover letter, apply for jobs, find housing, figure out future career path, deal with welfare programs, etc.

But after hearing all these examples, I was even more worried. I myself didn’t even know how to do some of those things. For example, if a member wants to attain a certain certificate, how should I distinguish among the dozens of ads of related training programs that would pop up at once on the Internet? How could I find the one that’s best for the member? I’ve never searched for housing in Durham, and so how could I find the best match for a member seeking help with housing? Thinking about all these, I was simply afraid that I wouldn’t have the extent of expertise that members tend to see in me as they walk into the office.

Now it’s been 6 weeks. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working at CEF. Most of my worries proved to be unnecessary and it’s been a great experience of learning while helping members. It’s always been very rewarding to know that things that might’ve taken others much time and effort could now be done easily with my help. At non-profits like CEF, the accomplishments are always very real and tangible, in the sense that they could be seen directly.

CEF has also given me the chance to see issues I would’ve never thought about otherwise. I’ve been able to see the struggles people face, as well as how much they’re doing to improve their lives. It’s also been a great way to know Durham (outside Duke) in the most direct way.

Working at CEF, I’ve been given a lot of trust even on the first day of work. CEF is a great place where everyone feels useful and can actually contribute. I’ve been very lucky to co-work with a group of tightly knit and absolutely amazing people. CEF provides the friendliest environment to advocates as well as members, and I’ve received just as much help as I’ve been giving.

It’s crazy that my program here has come to an end and that I’m leaving this week. I’ll definitely miss everyone here!

 

 

 

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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

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