Demonte teaches us all to live generously. While living in a tent in the woods of Chapel Hill, he showed up bright and early every Saturday morning to the CEF Opportunity Class, making coffee for everyone and helping with classroom set-up. With a gift for photography he quickly became the resident photographer at CEF, capturing fun daily moments in the office, where he spends time every day of the week. He routinely snaps photos and then runs right across the street to print the pictures and give copies to everyone.
Demonte came to Chapel Hill after his home in Maryland burned down. “I didn’t have anywhere else to go… When I came here all I really had was the clothes that I was wearing.”
Running through a list of all the ways he has worked with CEF, Demonte shares, “When I came down here, everything I needed help for, if they couldn’t help me, they referred me to somebody that could. They just basically helped me put my whole life back together.”
His list of goals he accomplished with CEF includes: Getting his social security card and birth certificate after losing all his documents in the fire; connecting to doctors and mental health; getting help with managing his benefits; and finding housing.
On top of all that, Demonte points to the lessons he has learned from CEF’s Opportunity Classes. “I learned how to budget. I had never made a budget before coming to CEF; now I plan… I had never done that before. Demonte graduated months ago at this point, but he still continues to go to class every week to keep learning and also share with others there what he has learned, “Just to give back, plus I like helping people.
“CEF, it’s just been a lifesaver for so many people. It helped me out a tremendous amount. I just love the people here. I have a lot of friendships here… It is great to have people who you can call your friends, sit down and talk to when something is on your mind. I advise anybody that needs help with finding a house or a job or writing a resume to come check it out.”
Demonte was in a car accident in 1995 and suffered brain damage. As a result, Demonte is permanently disabled and not able to work formally, but he certainly still works hard. He got ordained as a minister and has served churches as their music director, volunteering locally with Love Chapel Hill church. Music is a long-time passion for Demonte from his time in the church as a kid, where he and several other youth started the “Seven Jewels Youth Choir.”
Out of the woods and now in an apartment, Demonte says he is “more restful now, because when I was out in the tent I would always wake up and it was hard to sleep.” Being in an apartment has also allowed him to get a long-awaited knee surgery that was not medically possible when his circumstances were different, as his doctors could not in good practice discharge him from the hospital to rehabilitate in a tent.
So what’s next for Demonte? “Basically all the goals that I had set for myself, I reached them all. The only goal I haven’t reached is the goal for my Safe Savings Account and my goal to get a laptop, but I’m working on that right now. Everything else I set as a goal is pretty much done, mostly from the help of CEF.”
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