CEF Staff Highlight: Sydney Pender

Meet Sydney! Durham Office & Community Organizer

Sydney Pender, Durham Office & Community Organizer

Your Role: In your own words, how would you describe the work you do at CEF and why is it important? 

As Office & Community Organizer in Durham, my role is largely providing stability to the office to
ensure everything runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Another large responsibility is
the community advocacy portion, which provides CEF Members with opportunities to lead
initiatives surrounding the issues most important to them such as affordable housing, fair
consideration for employment, and building multigenerational wealth.

Your Background: What experiences, strengths, and skills do you bring to work at CEF?

I am a young, Black woman trying to make it in this world and I have a testimony in some ways
very similar to the Members we serve at CEF. Being in my position, serving folks that look like me
and have some of my same struggles, is a very humbling experience that brings both joy and
sorrow. There is power in representation and relatability, that strengthens my ability to reach
more than a person’s individual mind, but more importantly their hearts. The work I strive to do is
done very personally and with great intention.

Connecting to CEF: What led you to work with CEF generally, and also in this particular role?

More generally, I began volunteering with CEF in search of a community. I moved to Chapel Hill
mid-pandemic at the beginning of adulthood as a college student and knew absolutely nobody. I
wanted to be in community with other changemakers like myself and CEF allowed me to build a
home away from home. In the last two years, I have held the positions of Advocate, full-time
summer intern, part-time staff support, and now full-time office & community organizer. The
various positions I have held at CEF give me the ability to view our functions and operations from
many viewpoints, and deepen my understanding of who we are and what we do.

Energy: Where do you find energy and renewal?

I find energy and renewal by having meaningful conversations with other people about the work I
do. I like to talk to people and have heart-to-heart conversations about larger systematic issues
that show up every day in the world around us. I find joy in “stirring the pot” and talking about the
things that matter but are sometimes considered taboo. I would probably describe my personality
as an armchair philosopher.

Challenge: What are the biggest challenges in your work and how do you seek to find the best way forward?

One of the biggest challenges I face in the work I do is seeing the influx of people in need and the
lack of resources in the community to support them. There is an overwhelming amount of folks
that are not having their basic needs met. It is not easy to ignore or justify because it exists right
in front of us, every day. My commitment to the work I do is to at least make a dent in the pool of
injustice and continue to advocate for change that will impact those who need it most. Housing is
a human right.

Anything Else You Would Like To Add:

Never give up on yourself and pay close attention to the world around you. People may have
their doubts and opinions, but the truth can not be silenced… YOU MATTER!

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CEF: Community Empowerment Fund

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