Archive | Partner Story

Featured Partner: CTI and CEF


By: Barbara B. Smith, LCSW

Clinical Assistant Professor, UNC School of Social Work

In the fall of 2011, I was working with a woman who was homeless. In one of our sessions, she mentioned that some “college kids” had given her a laptop. Who were these college kids, I wondered? Over the next year, I was very pleased to learn about the Community Empowerment Fund and the great work being done in our local community.

I had a more formal introduction to Jon Young and Maggie West through the 100K Homes Task Force. In January 2012, I started participating on this group, and offered to provide mental health assessments to people who might need them through the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. CEF advocates took me up on the offer, and brought in a woman they had been providing outreach to for a couple of years. They provided incredible support to her which allowed her to engage in treatment.  We created a team around one person, and helped her access housing through Shelter Plus Care, and to successfully navigate a disability claim. She now has an apartment and income.

In July 2012, Gary Cuddeback, a colleague at the School of Social Work, and I received a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to implement a pilot of critical time intervention (CTI). CTI is an intensive case management model that is designed for people with mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We work hard to engage people in treatment, and to make sure there basic needs are met. Our CTI team depends on community partners for success, and CEF is a key partner. Many of the people we are working with in the CTI project had untreated mental illness. For those who need it, getting connected to mental health treatment can improve the chances of being successfully housed and employed.

At a time when our formal systems for supporting vulnerable people in our communities are faltering, our connection to CEF gives me hope. I’ve found energetic, committed, smart, and creative people who understand what it takes to help others change their lives: practical tools for financial empowerment, and social connection and support. I look forward to a long and mutually helpful partnership!


Featured Partner: HOPE Gardens

HOPE Gardens is a student-run community garden and urban farm in Chapel Hill, and has long been host to community potlucks and celebrations with CEF members. Their community garden workdays every Saturday have been a great way for CEF members to get active and grow their own veggies.

HOPE Gardens is launching a new program that will ensure CEF graduates who have moved into their own apartments have access to fresh, healthy produce. For a sliding scale subscription payment, HOPE Gardens will deliver a box of fresh produce from the garden directly to the doors of CEF graduates. Low-cost access to fruits and vegetables make a big difference for CEF graduates, many of whom suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure and yet struggle to afford the food best for their long-term health.

CEF and HOPE Gardens are both projects of the UNC Campus Y committee HOPE (Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication), and have been closely connected to each other since we both were started in 2009. From CEF’s perspective, this new program at HOPE Gardens is a huge step towards making sure CEF graduates stay connected to resources and can sustain their transitions out of homelessness.


Featured Partner: Housing for New Hope

Founded in 1992, Housing for New Hope serves individuals experiencing and at risk of experiencing homelessness in Orange and Durham Counties. In Durham, HNH is one of CEF’s founding partners, helping CEF volunteers conduct Opportunity Classes that serve residents of the Dove and Phoenix recovery houses and Williams Square Apartments.

Jessie Hughes, the Transitional Housing Coordinator at HNH, recently provided CEF with a stellar letter of support for one of our upcoming grant applications. Her words were incredibly kind and we wanted to take a second to thank her and Housing for New Hope for their immense support, and to share some of their sentiments with you all here. Thanks so much Jessie!

From Jessie’s letter:

“What I know is this: CEF is real, they really mean it, they are the genuine article. I have seen CEF representatives treat homeless, drug-addicted, unemployed citizens with the same dignity and respect reserved for public officials. I have watched as they tailored their program to the needs of those they served without hesitation. I h ave witnessed them express authentic joy when sharing a success with one of their clients…”

“I have been a part of many partnerships in my career. My partnership with CEF is the partnership I am most proud of. They are truly unique in their flexibility and willingness to serve. CEF leaves things better than they found them. That is the essence of their work. No job it too big or too small, no project beyond hope.”


Technology Without Borders and the Kramden Institute

Towards the close of Summer 2011, Technology Without Borders (a committee of the Campus Y) and the Kramden Institute came together in a joint partnership with CEF to pilot a new program: the Laptop IDA.
Technology Without Borders (TWB) was founded three years ago believing in the power of technology as a force for positive social change. With its initiation, TWB joined the small but growing community of social justice organizations dedicated to bridging the digital divide.
One such organization is the Kramden Institute, which helps thousands of students across North Carolina fulfill their academic and personal potential by providing heavily discounted or free refurbished computers to these students and their families based upon recommendations from their teachers and school administrators.
In its inaugural year, TWB partnered with the Kramden Institute to place computers in the homes of 50 low-income families with students in the community of Abbey Court. TWB supported this effort by developing a free open-mesh Wi-Fi network in the community and partnering with the Human Rights Center to create and maintain computer education classes and after-school programs in the community. The network continues to function in the community and Kramden has graciously provided additional computers.
Today, TWB remains dedicated to programs and partnerships that harness technology for social justice. In collaboration with the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), the Kramden Institute, and the JobLink Skills Development Center, TWB established the Technology Empowerment for Chapel Hill (TECH) Workshops. These workshops help people save for a refurbished Kramden laptop, learn computer and job skills, earn a computer skills certification, and provide the opportunity to apply for funding to return and teach other students participating in the TECH workshops, making it a sustainable community resource.
Through these and other programs, Technology Without Borders continues to utilize technology that many take for granted to bring about social change and work alongside organizations such as CEF to forge creative solutions to today’s problems of social justice and poverty.

Thrill City Empowers Community

Thrillife is a brand started by UNC student and clothing designer Ryan Cocca in an effort to make “Conscious Streetwear Culture”. Thrill City, the Chapel Hill offshoot of Thrillife, is staying true to its mission as a “launchpad of everything socially positive and creative in Chapel Hill, from concerts to art exhibits to social justice campaigns,” by dedicating 10% of their revenues to the Community Empowerment Fund. That’s a lot of love, and we can’t thank Ryan and Thrill City enough for their support of CEF and the Chapel Hill community. Checkout the insert that ships with all Thrill City merchandise.


CEF and Self Help: “Love at First Sight” – A Message from a Community Partner


Self Help Credit Union was founded in 1980 in Durham NC by a few impassioned individuals who wanted to help individuals, employees, families and businesses obtain fair and responsible financial services. Our website states “Self-Help is a community development lender, credit union, and real estate developer that works with individuals, organizations and communities traditionally underserved by conventional markets.”

Our founder, Martin Eakes, got wind of CEF’s work in the Chapel Hill community and introduced two central CEF leaders, Maggie West and Alexis Seccombe, to Self Help through a summer internship. It has been love at first sight ever since for our two nonprofits. As a 30th birthday present to Martin, staff donated 30+ hours of consulting time to CEF last year. Some of our staff members are proud to serve on CEF’s Board of Directors. Self Help also provides free office space for CEF’sDurham outreach efforts. Personally, I feel CEF is readying our next generation of members and borrowers by providing one-on-one counseling and support for their clients. We are proud to partner with CEF and their dynamic volunteers and applaud their outstanding work and mission.

– Sherry Kinlaw, Senior Project Manager, Self-Help Credit Union




Featured Partner: Love Chapel Hill

Love Chapel Hill

The Community Empowerment Fund appreciates the support of its partner, Love Chapel Hill. Love, a Chapel Hill-based church, became involved with CEF one year ago.

The relationship began when David Kayler and David Horton, members of both CEF and Love, came to Love with an idea. In their work with CEF, the two students had seen a major need for transportation among CEF Members. Time and again, unemployed or underemployed Members were forced to spend large portions of their savings on bus passes or cab fare in order to get to and from job interviews and educational opportunities – opportunities which would lead to further income in the long run, but were turning into financially drains in the short run.

“We’ve seen what a struggle and challenge it can be for people to find transportation around the Triangle for life-changing appointments” said Justin Simmons, executive pastor of Love. “We are glad to work with CEF to find those needs and help fill the gaps.” After forming a partnership with Triangle Transit Authority and doing some in-house fundraising, Love began providing bus passes and other forms of transportation assistance to those in need, and “Grace on Wheels” was born.

Along with Grace on Wheels, Love also aids CEF through its promotion of CEF events and service opportunities to Love members. Love is a natural partner for CEF given the fact that the two organizations share a common passion: building community and serving those experiencing homelessness and poverty.

“We’ve seen the proven success of CEF in helping to get people on their feet and well on their way to sustainability,” said Simmons. “We absolutely want people in our community to know that they are loved. CEF has an ability and proven track record to not only offer extremely helpful services, but to offer a real, authentic community among those who are living in or on the verge of poverty.”

The Love-CEF partnership will only continue to improve in the future. Love and CEF hope to expand Grace on Wheels and Love hopes to garner more member involvement with CEF.

CEF wants to thank Love for their continued support. Here’s to Grace on Wheels, to ending poverty, and to fighting the good fight together!

CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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