Archive | Videos

$1,000,000 Dollars Saved!

🐖One giant pig. One million dollars saved.💰

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to the Piggy Bank Bash to celebrate CEF Members’ amazing accomplishment last night. We’re proud to be part of such an amazingly supportive community and extremely thankful for all of the warmth and encouragement shared and received last night. We’re also filled with gratitude at the generosity of Grub, who generously hosted and fed us all for free, and all of our West End neighbors and friends, who pitched in with raffle prizes ( Pauli Murray Project, The Cookery, and Steel String  ) and supplying a sound system (the Durham Co-op Market 🎤).

Partners from Families Moving Forward, Self-Help, Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café also came out and shared their support in full force! If you want to continue partying it up with CEF this year, we hope to see you at Steel String on Wed, November 14 at CEF’s Night Out at Steel String


CEF Advocacy Choir Performs at UNC Memorial Hall

The CEF Advocacy Choir had the amazing experience of performing at Memorial Hall to close out the first half of a show by the UNC Loreleis this past weekend! Yvette Mathews is a part of CEF’s Staff team in Orange County, and the director of the Advocacy Choir. She has re-written the lyrics to many popular tunes to sing about issues faced by CEF Members – especially about affordable housing.

If you missed this performance, come check out he CEF Advocacy Choir at the CEF Art Show on April 21st or the Chapel Hill Spring Graduation Party on April 28th!

Sing with Us!

Call Yvette at 919-200-0233 or reach out via email at to get involved and be notified about upcoming rehearsals and performances!



“Six months ago, I was a person that lived in the trees. When [Hurricane] Matthew was running, and you were home safe, I was in the trees. Thinking about if they fell on me, would anyone find me? I was in the trees. I was in the trees because I could no longer afford housing in this city that I had lived for 6 years. I had an income. I was homeless, but not hopeless. I only wanted to trade trees for keys.”

Now, from her new, affordable apartment, Chinita is still surrounded by the trees, but she has keys. She remarks in bursts of joy to see the chipmunks scurry past her window, to see nature as her neighbor, but not her shelter.

Chinita grew up in Greensboro, and received degrees in Journalism and Education from NC A&T University. She built a career based on service and a love of people, working as a teacher and as a Hospice caregiver, and even for several years as a publicist and media sales.

In 2010 Chinita relocated to Chapel Hill to be closer to her doctors, and shares, “I had been living in the same place since I came to Chapel Hill — for six years. It wasn’t the best place, but it was home, it was comfortable, it was safe.” Each year, Chinita says, “I would go through the annual time to renew your lease and it’s nothing abnormal, normally it’s anywhere from $20 – $25 more but nothing shocking. Last year was shocking.”

Last year, her rent went up from $680 per month to $2,110 at her lease renewal. More than triple. This was more than she could possibly afford, and forced  her to seek new housing with short notice. She moved into her housing of last resort: her Jeep.

“In this city, I found trees that would cover me, that would protect me, so that I could be close to my doctor.” The social worker at her doctor’s office actually first referred her to CEF.  

Chinita describes using a fan plugged into her car lighter as her source of cooling down in 100 degree summer weather. She describes meeting the “golden warriors” of the Meals on Wheels team that delivered her daily meal to her in a parking lot. And she describes coming to CEF each week during the two months of her homelessness to find the resources to move back into a safe home.

About her work with CEF Advocates, Chinita shares “Every element that I’ve needed them to assist me – glasses, legal services, housing, food…I think they look at the whole person, and their whole needs, and if they don’t have an answer, they have a wealth of resources.”

“When you go to other services you feel like you’re given a band-aid. But the difference is with CEF it’s more of a healing process.”

For Chinita, this meant staying connected to CEF while finding an apartment she could afford, and eventually signing a lease with a senior housing community where she can sustain her housing for the long-term.

“I appreciate you being here at my lowest point, but I’m more appreciative of helping me find the resources that I can hold my head up again, and hope again. I don’t think there’s anything more grateful than feeling like you’ve got someone’s hand that’s holding you through the storm, and that’s what CEF has been for me… They have been the anchor in my life.”

To listen to Chinita speak is to listen to the voice of a poet, whose first love and first refuge was found in words – the world of words a place of connection and relief ever since she was a young girl. To listen to Chinita speak is to hear the “caged bird” sing, to quote a sentiment she references often, as you hear in her lyricism and in her powerful voice the influences of Dr. Maya Angelou (or “Mother Maya,” as Chinita lovingly calls her).

And Chinita is sharing the gifts of her inspirational speaking and her love of stories with the CEF community. Chinita now volunteers to lead CEF’s new member orientation sessions every week, to help others gain the financial stability she has found and to be the first person to welcome people into the community she loves. She shares, that for her, “The faith is restored, the hope is restored, the homes are obtained, the jobs are obtained, the glasses are obtained. I feel better about me. About life. I feel so great about it that I want to tell everybody about it. And I enjoy being orientation coordinator working with our new members in orientation, because they get to see Chinita over and over again. And I get to see individuals who come and they look like there’s no hope, but I get to tell them that there is.”

Chinita encourages you to join her in supporting and being a part of CEF. “When you can be with an organization that pulls out dreams that you’ve never even considered, that’s priceless.”

“It’s tax deductible, but it’s priceless too. I think that all of our givers should know that giving to CEF is not just putting band-aids… I want to say my spine and my neck is up higher, and I feel more confident and my faith is restored, and not only can I make it, but I can be a hand for someone else.”

This holiday CEF is sharing stories about how, as CEF Member David says, “CEF sticks with the person.” Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see more stories of how #CEFstickstogether


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


CEF’s TED Talk: Homeless, and Outsaving Half of the United States

Presented at the 2017 TEDxUNC event at Memorial Hall: CEF’s Co-Founders / Co-Directors sharing the transformative story of a group of college students and shelter residents who built a community organization and financial tools that support sustained transitions out of homelessness. The CEF Advocacy Choir sings to close out the talk, with an original song about the joy of finding a home after experiencing homelessness.

photographs by TEDxUNC


WCHL – Non-profit Showcase : CEF & Maggie West

If you were looking forward to our TED Talk at UNC, and are can’t wait to hear more about CEF—Co-founder and Co-director Maggie West was featured this month on WCHL’s non-profit spotlight! If you’ve ever wondered how and why CEF got started and what keeps all of us motivated to ‘show up’ each and every day click above to listen in!

Show notes

CEF From the Start
01:00 – How did CEF start as a student organization?
01:36 – How micro-loans turned into an opportunity to saving!
02:40 – Why some people can’t or don’t have bank accounts
03:15 – Match Savings Accounts = over 700K Saved!
03:55 – From student org into a Non-Profit!

Relationships: Members and Advocates
04:40 – How is CEF’s work really about relationships?
05:20 – How do Members choose their own goals?
06:23 – Are our volunteer Advocates trained to be experts?
06:50 – How we train 200+ volunteer Advocates?
07:20- What do we train Advocate to be able to do what they do?

Nate’s Story about Saving and Housing
09:00 – Maggie shares a story about Nate, a member working with a member to save and find housing in Chapel Hill
10:00 – Nate saves and finds a $325 studio apartment!
11:00 – What happened next after Nate moved in?
11:11 – Why the landlord didn’t immediately screen Nate out?
12:40 – “We don’t rent to homeless people”
13:40 – Why Safe Savings Account works for Nate.

Students Learning ‘A Real Big Lesson’
14:00 – What do students learn by working with members?
14:40 – What do systemic barriers look like on the ground?
15:10 – What are future doctors are learning by being an Advocate?
16:55 – What else gets students prepared for this work?
17:23 – “I don’t know how to do that but I think we can figure that out together”
17:45 – Advocates are connectors!

Getting involved: Now and the Future!
18:30 – What does Maggie see herself doing in the future?
19:08 – What can a someone do to help CEF’s work?
19:20- How does CEF stay so flexible/adaptable?
19:38 – How can you reach CEF and volunteer?


Member Story: Lindsey

Meet Lindsey

Lindsey is instinctively hospitable and welcoming, but if you really want to get her talking, just ask about her son. “That, I could talk to you about for hours! ” Josh has played the saxophone since he was 6 years old and “got a scholarship for music at the University of South Carolina. He’s amazing, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met, and of course I’m a little biased, but not much.”

Right before Thanksgiving, Lindsey moved into her own apartment after staying in transitional housing for nine months.

For as long as she can remember, Lindsey has identified as “Josh’s mom.” Now an empty-nester, she is glad to actually have her own nest in order to continue to form her future as her son continues to build his own.


Working with CEF

Lindsey connected with CEF while she was living in the Dove House, a transitional housing program run by Housing for New Hope in Durham. She was living with her parents prior to the Dove House, but when her parents moved into assisted living to support her aging mother’s dementia their family home was in foreclosure. For the first time in her life, she found herself facing homelessness.

While at the Dove House, Lindsey worked with her CEF Advocates to accomplish a whole list of goals. “Literally everything that I could have wanted, they figured out a way for me to do it. I don’t know of any other organization that could probably claim that.” Lindsey detailed a quick list:

  • Making resumes and submitting job applications. “We went from having no prospects of employment to 3 at one time!”

  • Expunging a dismissed felony charge from her record through connections to legal assistance, which enabled her to get the apartment where she now lives and opening up additional employment opportunities in the future

  • Saving successfully to attend her son’s graduation and to move into housing. “Working with CEF has actually gotten me to build up a savings account so when I did move out, I had the money to do it.”

  • Finding housing by searching all around the city and ultimately finding a great one-bedroom near her work, and getting furniture for her new home through community resources

And more! “These are resources that I didn’t even know were out there, but thanks to CEF I was really fortunate to be able to pull things together… And as a result, I have everything I need.”  

lindseytuttle-jby16-11Saving Early and Often

Lindsey is a big fan of the CEF matched savings account. Lindsey works as a waitress, and shares that “I come home with tip money, and it’s a good and a bad thing, because you’ve got your money right on you if you need it, but it makes it that much easier to go through it .” Yet she is a steadfast saver, quickly reaching her first goals with CEF!

Her advice for other CEF members? “Yes. Save. That’s all I can tell you, even if you think you just might take out a little just to order a pizza. That adds up.” Lindsey’s first savings goals helped her to decorate her house to really make it a home, hanging photos to “remind me of the support network that I have, and that whenever I get flustered I’m not alone, that I have people I could reach out to.”

And she is still saving even after her move! “My savings goals are to make sure that I can live day to day, and cover what my power bill is going to be and what my water bill is going to be so I can estimate and budget for that amount. But short-term I’m saving for Time Warner which will be $150, and I’ve got about $125.”

Goals and Confidence

We are delighted to see Lindsey in her own home, but we are even more thankful to hear her talk about the self-confidence she built while working with her advocates. “Your confidence gets eroded over an amount of time, especially if a lot of bad things continually happen… I became more confident!”

Janet and Yuliya work with Lindsey as her CEF Advocates, and shared what a delight it continues to be. The team would set up on the couch in the living room of the Dove House with their laptop to work with Lindsey through all the steps of her proactive plan during each weekly meeting. Yuliya, a senior at Duke, reflected, “We just learned to break it down into smaller goals because those are much more manageable and easier to accomplish, and that kind of helps build confidence. Because once you reach the first goal, you’re like, okay, that was doable, and I can reach the next step and the next step.”

The whole CEF community shares Lindsey’s joy in gaining a job, securing housing, and building savings, and given how much progress this trio made together in under a year, we know Lindsey is only just beginning to build her future with CEF!



CEF Receives GSK Impact Award!

The Triangle Community Foundation and GSK honored CEF and 9 other amazing Triangle nonprofits at the GSK Impact Awards last week! The CEF Advocacy Choir performed “Smile” to open the ceremonies and CEF Staff Member, Yvette Matthews, received the award on behalf of all of CEF.
The award comes with $40,000 to deepen CEF’s work in Orange and Durham Counties, working together with communities to transform financial and housing opportunities!  CEF was recognized for our innovative work in “making homes and neighborhoods safer, connecting families to support services, and preparing people of all ages for successful careers – all important factors to improve health outcomes in underserved neighborhoods.”
CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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