Michelle Lewis

HOPE and a Fresh Start

Imagine a garden where seeds of hope grow, transforming lives.  Imagine a place where community leaders, homeless individuals, UNC students, low-income individuals, high school students, and the broader community all come together to work in a garden . . . and to give a fresh start to those people most in need of hope for a better future. The place is HOPE Gardens, right here in Chapel Hill on Homestead Road.   HOPE Gardens is a student-run project developed by UNC’s Campus Y in 2009.  HOPE stands for “Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication.” It is best to understand the program through HOPE Gardens’ own words: “[HOPE Gardens is] a transitional employment program for homeless individuals and an inclusive community garden, each meant to facilitate relationships and dialogue among the student, homeless, low-income, and broader Chapel Hill communities in a ‘side by side’ work environment… Structured as an all-inclusive program to employ the homeless in a community garden, HOPE Gardens is designed to help people experiencing homelessness overcome many obstacles to finding employment. People living on the streets and in the shelters apply to the program; after being accepted, they plant, cultivate, and harvest their crop. Produce as well as value-added products are sold on the UNC campus and in local farmers’ markets.  As a part of the program, participants will be connected with various social services and guided in methods...

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Helping Hungry Kids in Chapel Hill and Carrboro

It’s hard to imagine that there are children in our wealthy, educated community who don’t have enough to eat.  But it’s true. TABLE is a local nonprofit hunger relief organization focusing exclusively on childhood hunger in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Each week, TABLE puts healthy food, including fresh produce, directly into the hands of Chapel Hill and Carrboro elementary school age children who would otherwise go hungry on weekends and other times of the year when free school meals are unavailable. TABLE currently is providing food to 125 children.  Volunteers love packing the bags of food each week “because they know they are packing up food that’s going to go directly to a little kid,” notes TABLE Director Joy MacVane.  You can have your chance to pack some bags on Wednesday, February 29th, from 6:30-8:00pm.  As part of Carrboro’s Love Month, TABLE is hosting this “Care and Share Event at the TABLE” on February 29th so the community can enjoy the great feeling of packing a bag and knowing that the food in there will keep a little kid from going hungry that coming weekend.   A fun “picnic” dinner for participants will be provided by Neal’s Deli.  To register or for more information, call 919-636-4860. Speaking of dinner, another fun opportunity to help TABLE is coming up on Saturday, February 25th at the Carolina Inn.  It’s called the “Shrimp...

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Presidential Volunteer Award

Have you heard about the Presidential Volunteer Service Award?  It is an award given by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to individuals, families, and groups that have provided a certain number of volunteer service hours in a 12-month period.  http://www.presidentialserviceawards.gov/tg/pvsainfo/dspAboutAwards.cfm The Council created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program “as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service.” One of the great things about this award is that it is available to anyone age 5 and up.  It is a wonderful way to show a child that the community service he/she is doing is valuable and appreciated.  The award is a lapel pin – bronze, silver, or gold, depending on the number of service hours.  The service hour requirements for children ages 5-14 are: 100 for gold, 75 for silver, and 50 for bronze. The timeframe is 12 months.   Our high schools currently require students to do a total of 25 hours of community service over four years.  So you can see that if a child volunteers 50 hours in a single year, that truly is something significantly above and beyond. The service hour requirements for “young adults,” ages 15-25, are: 250 for gold, 175 for silver, and 100 for bronze.  This is something that college-bound high school students should keep in...

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Jazzy Night for the PTA Thrift Shop

Come to Top of the Hill’s Great Room this Saturday night to enjoy some great jazz and blues (Equinox), eat some yummy food (hors d’oeuvres), have fun with a terrific MC (Ron Stutts), and support a great cause — the PTA Thrift Shop’s capital campaign.  It’s the PTA Thrift Shop’s Birthday Bash.  Yes, the PTA Thrift Shop has been providing a steady – and substantial – stream of revenue for our public schools for 60 years. In the past five years, the Thrift Shop has earned a total of $1.3 million for our schools, including $265,000 in 2011. Not only does the Thrift Shop support our schools, but it’s our community’s number one example of the “reuse” part of the “reuse, recycle, reduce” mantra of sustainable living.  Also, the Thrift Shop has provided our community with a very economical alternative for purchasing clothing, furniture, books, and household goods during this prolonged economic downturn.   In fact, our community has needed the Thrift Shop so much that its physical space is bursting at the seams.  That’s good news because it means the Thrift Shop’s giving potential is even greater.  All it needs is more space.   So the Thrift Shop announced plans in June to re-build new facilities and additional commercial space at its Carrboro location.  It launched a $1.7 million community fundraising campaign to support the project. Proceeds from...

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How Can You Help

Are you interested in helping, here and there, with some local nonprofits but don’t know where to start?  Or need a service project for a local school, church, neighborhood, or Scout group?  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  Below is a quick sampling of the needs of various nonprofits in our community.   Kidzu Children’s Museum – Kidzu is a nonprofit children’s museum dedicated to providing children with opportunities to learn through doing.  This is a museum in which children are encouraged to touch everything, ask lots of questions, use their energy, and, especially, use their hands to build, draw, and create!  A great way to make this opportunity available to more children is to buy Kidzu gift memberships ($75) for the Children’s Hospital and The Arc.  If you have any young ones at home who need a day out of the house during cold winter days, don’t forget that Kidzu has moved to a new bright, cheery location at University Square. http://kidzuchildrensmuseum.org/home Meals on Wheels – Meals on Wheels provides 20,000 nutritious meals annually to the homebound in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area.  Many MOW clients are either elderly, ill, or otherwise incapacitated.  MOW volunteers deliver a warm, balanced meal each day – along with a smile and “How are you?”  MOW Carrboro/Chapel Hill delivers meals to approximately 110 people every day.  There are a lot of ways...

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Great Gifts for Kids, Chapel Hill-Style!

If you are looking for a great last minute gift for a kid or family, you have come to the right place!      My three favorite gift recommendations are: (1) a Carolina Kids Club membership ($35 per kid); (2) a Morehead Planetarium and Science Center family membership ($70 per family; buy it before December 31st and get $10 off); and (3) a Kidzu Children’s Museum family membership ($75 per family). These memberships are the kind of gifts “that keep giving” throughout the year. And they are a terrific value for the money. If this sounds good to you, keep reading.   Carolina Kids Club Membership   My children have been members of the Carolina Kids Club for many years and they absolutely love it. My husband and I do too.   The Kids Club organizes fun pre-game (and sometimes post-game) events at select UNC athletic games throughout the year. At each event the Kids Club usually provides the kids with a lunch or snack, a gift (e.g., poster, stuffed mini-Ramses, mini basketball hoop), and an opportunity to meet the players and get autographs. It is a fun way to spend a couple hours and a great way for kids to learn about different collegiate sports.    I know what you are wondering, “What about UNC Men’s Basketball?” Well, guess what? The Kids Club hosts an annual event at which the kids (and the parents) get to...

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Go Global with Local International Nonprofits

Looking to do some good globally but want to act locally?  If the answer is yes, then Chapel Hill is the place.  It is amazing how many organizations here can help you “touch” someone’s life in a far-away country while still remaining in Chapel Hill.  And I don’t mean by just writing a check. Let me give you an example.  My nine-year old daughter, Kristin, and I volunteer for an organization called A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN).   ABAN’s office is on Franklin Street, but its mission, and the heart of its work, is in Ghana.  ABAN runs a facility in Accra, Ghana, that provides a safe haven, trade skills, and education to 20 adolescent street girls and their babies.  The girls help pay for this apprenticeship program by producing attractive up-cycled products out of littered plastic.  The products are sold in Ghana, the U.S., and online ( http://www.aban.org/products).   Part of the money from each product sold goes into a savings account for the girl so she will have enough savings upon graduation from ABAN’s two-year program to launch her future and that of her child. How do my daughter and I help?  I help with grant-writing, public relations, and fundraising.  My daughter sells the ABAN products and makes presentations to people who are interested in ABAN’s mission.  We also had a lot of fun collecting baby clothes and sending...

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Books To Cheer UNC's Pediatric Cancer Clinic

Have any gently used kids’ books lying around gathering dust? Want them to be loved and read anew? Then consider donating them to Karl’s Books. Looking for a service project for your business, Scout troop, or place of worship? How about a book drive for Karl’s Books? Karl’s Books donates new and gently used books to UNC Hospital’s Chapel Hill Pediatric Oncology Clinic. Kathy Humphries and her husband started Karl’s Books in 2007 after their 13-year-old son, Karl, died of a brain tumor. The Humphries were grateful for the wonderful care their son received at UNC and wondered what they could do to give back. Karl’s doctor, Stuart Gold, noted how much Karl had loved to read and suggested that the Humphries might want to help fill the clinic’s bookcases with books patients could read and take home. The Humphries loved the idea and Karl’s Books was born. Over the past four years, books and money have been donated to Karl’s Books by many individuals and organizations, including churches, schools, Scout troops, and 4-H clubs. Recently students in Orange County’s 4-H Explorers club collected over 600 gently used books to donate. Why did they do it? Photo by Kristin Lewis “The kids in our club love to read,” explains 4-H Explorer Chase Lewis, “When we thought about the patients at the clinic, some of whom are our age, we...

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This Nonprofit's Mission is to Expand Your Horizons and Sharpen Your Brain

This nonprofit has several events to expand your horizons and sharpen your brain this week. Some of them are happening on the same night, so you will have to choose. But if you were able to attend all of them, by the end of the week you would know a lot more about Muslim – Western relations, the condition of children in Kenya, the 1989 Romanian revolution, the wonders of nanotechnology, etc., etc. What nonprofit can do all this? One of my very favorite nonprofits: UNC, of course! This Wednesday night at 6:00pm, the public is invited to a free showing of “Crossing Borders” at the FedEx Global Education Center on Pittsboro Street. This award-winning documentary follows four Morrocan and four American university students as they travel together through Morocco and, in the process of discovering “The Other,” discover themselves ( http://crossingbordersfilm.org/). A panel discussion led by UNC students who recently returned from Morocco will follow the screening. Parking is available in the Global Education Center’s underground lot. On Thursday night at 7:00pm, the public is invited to a free showing of “These are Our Children” at the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building Auditorium, right next to the FedEx Global Education Center on Pittsboro Street. This award-winning documentary reveals how the devastating effects of poverty, HIV/AIDs, and violence on Kenyan children are being reduced through simple and inexpensive grassroots interventions (more information...

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Deep Dish, Great Gala . . .

Great theater is not inexpensive.  Many, if not most, of you have enjoyed watching terrific theatrical productions at Chapel Hill’s Deep Dish Theater. But what you may not know is that Deep Dish is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations for approximately 50% of its expenses. Deep Dish is committed not only to delivering professional theater, but to “includ[ing] and reach[ing] out to the surrounding community in all its diversity.” One of the ways they do that is by keeping ticket prices within the reach of many.   But this means that the tickets (which often are priced between $19 and $21) cannot cover the theater’s expenses. On October 2nd, Deep Dish is holding a fundraising Gala at the Doris Duke Center at Duke Gardens.  Deep Dish produces four shows a year, supplemented by “Side Dish” events like its Short Story evenings, Singer/Songwriter series, Dish Book Club, and acting and playwriting classes.  Deep Dish produces compelling, provocative, human-centered dramatic work. Its upcoming play, “Nathan the Wise,” is no exception. Set in Jerusalem during the Crusades, this funny and forceful play tells the intricate story of a young couple caught between warring religious factions.   Written in 1779, “Nathan the Wise” has seen a recent revival, including performances in Rome and throughout the United States. According to the Washington Post, “Nathan the Wise” brings “warmth and humor to a tale of Muslim, Jew, and Christian in...

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