Archive | Videos

CEF Advocacy Choir’s 1st Performance!


On Sept 15th, at the Justice United Public Assembly at St. Thomas Moore, Yvette Mathews led a choir of 22 Members and Advocates in song, singing soulfully for the cause of affordable housing in Orange County and in support of the 5 million dollar bond that is being voted on in Nov. We hope this is the first of many performances at public meetings and before faith congregations to come in the future! #makeroomorange




Follow Maggie to our New Chapel Hill Office!

The Chapel Hill Office is moving in July…
BUT, we’re not going far!
The new Chapel Hill Office, located at 208 N. Columbia Street, is a mere 125 steps away from our current location on W. Rosemary Street.

We’re excited about this move for a couple of reasons:

1. Twice the Size!  It’s way bigger than our current space, almost double the size. This allows us to co-locate and share the space with partner organizations. We are currently looking for organizations interested in sharing this great location.

2. Five-Year Lease! This will also be, at last, a longer term home for the CEF family in Chapel Hill. We’ve signed a five-year lease and are very much looking forward to settling into this space.

How You Can Help:

1. Volunteer Your Time! 

If you’re able to help us pack or move boxes, we need help!
Click to Here to Sign-up

2. Donate!

With this big move, we need your support now more than ever, and we still need to raise at least $1,000 to reach our all-or-nothing challenge grant! Donate before May 31st and your gift is doubled by the Stewards Fund!
Click to Donate

[Learn more about our Stewards Fund and Double Your Donation!]



Member Story: Sue and Howell

Spend as little as five minutes with Sue and her son Howell Brown III and be prepared to fall immediately and deeply in love. Little Howell, with a thick Appalachian accent and black cowboy hat covering his head, talks in that lively way that only a 12-year old boy can about the RC cars that he races at Northgate Mall and his service dog Bo. He is the epitome of exuberance. He is one of those rare people you feel blessed to meet, who breathes in the same air as the rest of us, but then manages to breathe out pure joy.

Sue and Little Howell came to Durham when Howell was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They left everything behind at their home in Asheville, and were sleeping in hospital waiting rooms at first. Howell shares, “When I got diagnosed, we had to leave right away – no messing around.” After relocating to Durham, Howell and Sue were very fortunately connected with the Ronald McDonald House to live while Howell received his first year of chemotherapy and treatment.

During this time of upheaval and crisis, Sue ran into financial troubles. Howell’s oncologist encouraged Sue to “put everything on hold” while taking care of Howell through his treatment, meaning that Sue has been unable to work consistently. To help with bills, she took out a payday loan, not knowing the neverending debt trap the loan would lead to. Since then, Sue has received numerous threatening collections calls – and paid back her loans with exorbitant interest – all the while navigating the complicated health system and making sure Howell was receiving all the care that he needed.

Sue has been an amazing advocate for her son throughout his treatment – seeking out resources within the hospital and within the community that could support her son’s well-being as well as their future as a family. She learned about CEF when attending a resource panel offered by another local organization, and jumped at the opportunity to work with CEF to get her finances back in order.

Sue and Howell truly joined CEF as a family. Sue and Howell worked with their advocates to strive through their financial crisis as Sue focused on her son’s healing and treatment. Of CEF, Sue shares, “They’re helping me find hope by getting my financial security back… Before, we were struggling so much, and now I feel like I am breathing again.”

With CEF, Sue has opened a new account at Self-Help Credit Union, allowing her a fresh start with banking, and she is also working towards a personal savings goal through CEF’s Safe Savings Account. She has also connected to many local resources, filed back taxes, and better understood her credit situation. Her Advocates also help to investigate when she suspects she is receiving phone calls and emails that are financial scams. With her tireless CEF Advocates, “I can reach my goals,” says Sue.

And Sue has made this progress and tackled these issues concurrently and alongside traveling back and forth to Florida for special treatments for Little Howell, countless appointments at Duke Hospital, and dealing with news that is sometimes good and sometimes not what they hoped to hear. What’s more, going above and beyond super-mom status, she has found ways to give Little Howell the opportunity to be the exuberant, joyous, full-of-life child that he is, approaching a glimmer of normalcy, by doing everything from racing RC cars to attending Duke football games through the Ronald McDonald House.

Sue and Little Howell have been a joy to work with in CEF, and we are delighted to share a little bit about their journey here. As they reflect on their time with CEF, Little Howell shares, “I just hope we can do something for them some day, they’ve really helped us out a lot.” We hope he knows that they already have.



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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Meet Robert, Sophie, & Jenna

Robert is a grandfather, a Marine Veteran, and a natural-born leader. Sophie and Jenna are UNC undergraduate students, and his CEF advocates. Combined, this trio is a force to be reckoned with.Earlier this year, Robert chose to leave a full-time, salaried job in Kinston, NC to move into the homeless shelter in Chapel Hill. He left behind his home, his community, and his livelihood.

Why? “I was just working for the drug man and the rent man. And by me being a functional addict, I wasn’t going to lose my job. I had to make a decision, I had to make a choice to give up everything, start from scratch, get out of the environment I was in and try something new.”

“In CEF you get a chance to get yourself back. I had lost myself – I had lost me. Thanks to CEF, they brought it all together,” says Robert. “Sophie and Jenna have been with me from the start, and they’re almost like my little daughters. By them keeping me motivated, and by me keeping the fire going myself, and them seeing me making progress, like getting a job and seeing my savings go up, sometimes I look at them and it’s like seeing a kid looking at the Christmas tree. You can see the light in their eye getting brighter and brighter.”

Jenna and Sophie see their relationship with Robert as a life-long friendship. Reflecting, they shared, “We have a relationship beyond that of a member and advocate team, we are truly a family. The support that we offer Robert is far surpassed by the moral and emotional support Robert continually showers us with whether he is reminding us to take some time for ourselves or reading us excerpts from one of his favorite books, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. I never leave an advocate-member meeting without feeling inspired and loved, no matter how stressed I am.”

Over the past year we have watched Robert graduate from Opportunity Class, find a job, reach 80% of his savings goal, strengthen his relationship with his family, peers and most importantly, himself. Robert’s accomplishments have been more than earned and fill my heart with so much joy and hope.”

Likewise, Robert’s heart is filled thinking back on how far this trio has come on their journey. “I look back to where I was a year ago, and now I’m so far on my goals. You can’t imagine how good I feel, the pride I got back to myself. There’s no way you could imagine…”




CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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