Food for the Summer Distributes More Than 48,000 Meals in Pilot Summer

One word kept coming up at the meeting wrapping up the Food for the Summer effort last Wednesday, amazing.

An amazing number of meals served; an amazing effort to organize all of the moving parts; and amazing work by community members volunteering to hand out these meals.

“We had no idea how we were going to make this work,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said after the meeting. “It was a pilot, and we thought we would be somewhat successful.

“To see all of the pieces that came together to make it even a bigger experience than we were planning on – with the books, with the activity buckets, with all of the interactions with kids, with growing TABLE’s list of kids to help serve – I had no idea we could actually reach that far in such a short period of time.”

Hemminger said this was a shining example of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro community coming together for a common cause.

“I’m so proud of the community for responding,” she said. “That’s a lot of volunteers for a program that never existed before. We want to do a better job reaching more kids earlier and letting them know this is an opportunity. But I love when you hear the stories of community members who interacted with kids.”

Hemminger specifically pointed to the police and fire departments getting involved to enhance the children’s experience.

“Their experience is more than just giving them food.”

Program coordinator Katie Hug said that, even considering the success of this year’s pilot campaign, there is plenty of room for growth.

“We need to really listen to the kids; we need to talk to the kids; and we need to make sure we’re heard by the kids,” Hug said. “We’re so excited about the numbers we had, but I think they, most definitely, can and should grow.”

Whatever growth happens next summer will happen without Hug being as integral of a part as she was this year to launch the program. Hug has taken a position with the state Department of Public Instruction to help with outreach of similar programs across North Carolina. But she says she can’t quite come to grips that this first experience is over quite yet.

“Not yet, because it can’t be over,” Hug said. “It’s just the beginning of something that’s amazing. And it’s going to continue, I have no doubt about it.”

Over the 54 days of summer from mid-June to late-August, 48,145 meals were served by the Food for the Summer program. To make sure all of those meals got to the children in need, 525 adult volunteers, with the more than 100 children who accompanied them, filled 1748 volunteer shifts. After jumping into the program mid-summer, more than 3,500 books were distributed as part of the effort as well.

There are still challenges to overcome and the group is still looking at information to know if the program’s financial model is sustainable. The group will be working to secure grants to keep the work going next summer and hopefully increase its impact.

More information is available at the Food for the Summer website.

Zones Chosen By FSA Council To Create Pipeline to Success for Children

The Family Success Alliance Council has chosen two of the six geographic zones to enact a pilot program with the goal of creating a pipeline of success for children living in poverty.

Dr. Michael Steiner, with UNC Health Care, announced the selection following a committee vote.

“Congratulations to Zone 4 and Zone 6, and the Family Success Alliance will look forward to continue working with you and starting the next steps of the process.”

Zone 4 represents central Orange County, specifically between I-40 and I-85. Zone 6 covers a densely populated area from downtown Chapel Hill to Highway 54.

Representatives from the six zones that were being considered for the pilot program gave their pitch to the council during a special meeting, on Tuesday evening.

Delores Bailey, from the non-profit EmPowerment, represented Zone 6. In her pitch to the council, she focused on a need of young children in the community.

“There’s been a major setback in the Head Start program,” she says. “And that alone has been responsible for the groundwork and young people growing. If we’re missing that Head Start piece, we’ve got to have resources that wrap around what we’re missing from there.”

Zone four was campaigned for by Aviva Scully from Stanback Middle School and New Hope Elementary’s Rosemary Deane.

Deane says that during some community events they were able to break down barriers and establish a cumulative goal for the area.

“During our forum, we had families from all over come together. You could see a common vision of what they want for our community,” she recalled.

They are looking to calm some of those concerns with the help of pilot program from the Family Success Alliance Council.

One common theme developed throughout the meeting. No matter which zones were ultimately selected, the ball was rolling and each zone would have the support of the zones that were not chosen.

As for those zones that were not selected, Orange County Health Department Director Dr. Colleen Bridger cautioned that this was a pilot program, so there was no firm timeline for involving the other zones. But she made clear the intention was to do so.

“We need to try it and see how it goes. And then as soon as we can, we want every single zone to be involved in this.”

Doctor Bridger adds that the zones that were not selected will be encouraged to continue their work, and the council will be able to provide some guidance following their next meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the pilot program will immediately go into action in zones four and six. Feedback from the success of these programs will be documented and passed along to other areas throughout the community to encourage similar efforts.

Locals Reach Out To Aid Immigrant Children

With more than 1,000 unaccompanied children crossing the southern border into the United States each week, local residents are looking for a way to respond to what some are calling a “humanitarian crisis.”

Jacqueline Gist, longtime member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, says she wants to reach out to help undocumented immigrant children being detained in shelters while awaiting deportation proceedings.

“Children who are far from home, coming out of very scary, dangerous, life-threatening situations- if we can’t find fit in our hearts to help those children, then I hate to think of who we’ve become,” says Gist.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have sought to cross the U.S. – Mexico border in the past eight months, fleeing violence in Central America.

The Department of Health and Human Services operates approximately 100 shelters near the border that can house the children until they can be settled with families to await their hearings. Due to the recent influx, three more shelters have opened in California, Texas and Oklahoma.

As the children have been moved from one location to another, images of angry locals yelling at school buses have flooded the media in past weeks, prompting some, like Gist, to offer a rebuttal in the form of an invitation.

“My original thought had been that our community could welcome a busload of these children who are being treated with hatred in other places where they show up, and help them through their resettlement process that they’re going through,” says Gist.

But while Gist says the response from the local community has been in favor of offering temporary shelter, federal guidelines stand in the way.

“[The Department of Health and Human Services] is not interested in a one-time thing, they’re more looking for what they call permanent facilities, that would be at least thirty-six months and that would pretty much be open to a steady stream of children,” says Gist.

To be considered as a shelter, a facility must be licensed by the state and run by a group home care provider. The deadline to apply is early August.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to provide a facility for these children. I think it’s too big and the time frame is too short. The actions necessary to get there would take months and months and months.”

Still, she says concerned citizens in Chapel Hill and Carrboro can find a way to help.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything that we can do, and I think what we need to do I find organizations in our region who are already helping or who are poised to help and see how we can support those.”

Gist says the Church of Reconciliation is already accepting donations of toys and Spanish-language books to offer children in shelters, and she expects similar efforts to gain momentum in the coming weeks.

Rains Nearly Hold Off For Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday Parade

CHAPEL HILL – A forecast of a 100-percent chance of rain didn’t keep too many people away, and the rains nearly held off long enough for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Holiday parade Saturday morning.

It all began with the Color Guard and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt riding on a fire truck.  Boy scouts, taekwondo groups, local businesses, the Sacrificial Poets, Santa Claus and many more rode on floats through town and handed out candy and treats for children.  Northern Chatham County resident, Tanya Randall said the parade is something she looks forward to every year.

“We love it; its great,” Randall said. “It’s a great hometown feel, great parade. We like the bands and the fire trucks and seeing all the groups.”

Many people have made a tradition out of the Holiday Parade and come out every year.  Dick and Sheryl Forbis said they have been coming to the parade since moving to Carrboro.

“We come out pretty much each year, so it’s been eight or ten years now,” Forbis said.

Lots of children walked in the parade and even more stood on the sidewalks to catch candy and enjoy the festivities.  Both Forbis and even the man in the red suit told us what they really like about the Holiday Parade.

“Love to hear the bands, and then to see the little kids run around and have a great time,” Forbis said. “Whether they are Indian princesses, or cub scouts, or taekwondo’s, they’re all having a big time.”

“How excited everybody gets over seeing Santa Claus, it’s an unbelievable rush” Santa said.

Ending at 11:30 a.m. the parade almost managed to completely avoid the rain, as it began to drizzle right at the end. People were glad that the weather was not too cold in the morning, and Randall said she was happy that it wasn’t raining.

“Yea it’s something we definitely look forward to,” Randall said. “We were glad the rain held off so we could actually come and see it this morning.”

For more information, click here.

City Kitchen Holds Hog Roast To Benefit SKJAJA Fund

CHAPEL HILL –  The City Kitchen will host the Hog Roast to support the SKJAJA Fund Saturday. It’s a chance to help provide educational and social enrichment programs for children.

SKJAJA’s Sondra Komada says that the money raised will benefit children in the area that would not normally be able to pay for after-school activities.

“We fund kids/students to be able to say rent their instrument for band, or go to sports camps or educational opportunities; they apply and we like to give them as much money as we can that’s why we’re having this event on Saturday” Komada says.

SKJAJA was founded in 2008 as a “pay it forward” program to not only support children in the area, but to teach an important lesson about citizenship.  As an all-volunteer organization, SKJAJA relies on the support from the community

Co-founder of SKJAJA, Charlotte White, says that during their event, happening from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at City Kitchen, will offer a variety of traditional foods for people to enjoy.

“It’s going to have all the traditional barbecue, macaroni and cheese, beans, and slaw and stuff menu, and then we also have, we’re very excited,  Lester Fricks playing live music, they play kind of bluegrass, Americana, country mix” White says.

Tickets for the Hog Roast are $40 for adults and $20 for kids.  The SKJAJA fund will receive 25 percent of the ticket price and put the money they receive towards the children in Chapel hill/Carrboro.  Komada says that this is not the only event they will hold to raise money.

“Well we’re going to do our Color of the Hill color run again in the spring, and we’re gonna also try to do more of these smaller events just all over town, and we’re working on some different places where we can just have small events and different venues” Komada states.

For information on SKJAJA and tickets click here.

North Carolina Ranks 35th in Child Well-Being

RALEIGH – In its annual report ranking child well-being by state, the Annie E. Casey Foundation put North Carolina on the lower end of the spectrum, ranking the state 35th.

In its KIDS COUNT data book, the foundation illustrates how 34 percent of children live in a home where neither caregiver has full-time employment and one in four children are in poverty.

Laila Bell, director of research and data at Action for Children N.C., says that poverty is the number one issue facing children in North Carolina today.

“We’ve seen studies that show that poverty can affect children’s health, so poor children are more likely to be in poor health,” Bell said.

At a time when poverty is on the rise in North Carolina, Bell said it is important to make sure that legislation is not passed to roll back economic support for people in need.

“We’re certainly concerned about the fact that we are, as a state, rolling back on investments that can help reduce the negative impacts of poverty and financial stress for families,” Bell said.

While the KIDS COUNT report shows child poverty on the rise, the teen birth rate dropped 21 percent and the number of high school students not graduating on time dropped 18 percent since the 2005-06 school year.

Bell explained that while child poverty can lead to higher teen birth rates and dropout rates, additional programs in the state can curb those outcomes.

“So although we’re seeing an increase in the number of children in poverty, previous investments that we’ve made in things like dropout prevention, teen pregnancy programming, even children’s access to health insurance and medical care means that we’ve seen really important progress in those areas,” Bell said.

North Carolina has the tenth highest child poverty rate in the country.

Unrestrained Joy

Something happens when your kids go back to school. Your life, if you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad, becomes a conveyor belt. You, your kids get up, eat, they leave for school, you restore your house to some sort of order, volunteer, do some contractual work, they return from school, eat, do homework, and eat some more. Then everybody goes back to bed.

It starts to get boring, and the boredom is relentless. It pushes you to do something, anything. What to do on the cheap? Wrightsville Beach is three hours away. Surf, walk, order pizza — and relax by the water.

What Was That? No Way, It Couldn't Have Been An Earthquake!

Everyone I spoke with yesterday felt the tremors but immediately dismissed the notion they had experienced an earthquake. A friend thought the guy with the leaf blower outside her condominium had something to do with the tremors. How? I don’t know. Another person blamed it on his daughter, thinking she was “shaking the car” on their way home from Raleigh.

Are we really this clueless? It’s no wonder the jokes are going viral especially from the West Coast folks. I can’t blame them. And it seems to me we may just get a committee out of this! This powerful earthquake, a first in 67 years according to the Associated Press, will probably prompt the politicians in Washington, D.C., where the tremors were also felt, to create one. While they are at it, they should form a welcoming committee for Irene.

Jokes aside, this is an amazing teachable opportunity for your children. To learn more about the earthquake this past Tuesday and earthquakes in general, encourage your children to visit the website for the United States Geological Survey at And seize this opportunity to explain how the tremors originated from the epicenter near Richmond, and how to be prepared for the next earthquake.

Can You See Her, A Little Girl?

Has Your Child Ever Seen Animals in the Sky?

It seems to me we’ve been seeing a lot of clouds these past few weeks — and one thing I love doing with the kids is to look for animals or whatever we think we can see in the sky. Our children believe this cloud in the picture looks like a little girl with a pony tail. Can you see her?

Try it with your children. It’ll take no more than five minutes. Step outside and look.

In Memory of My Friend’s Mother

How to Help Your Child, At Any Age, Comfort Someone?

Yesterday I picked some Queen Anne’s Laces alongside the road for a friend whose dying mother believes her bed sheets are made of lace. “They are so soft, so beautiful,” she told my friend who in turn told me this story. As common, noxious and pesky as these wild flowers may be, they are as exquisitely beautiful as lace — and the gift, my friend said, “They will forever, forever be my mom’s flower.”

When someone is dying or has passed away, it seems to me it’s hard to know what to say or do. It’s even harder to show our children what to do. Some of us avoid saying anything. Or we stumble on the wrong phases, “Hey, it was his time. Move on.” It doesn’t take much to help your children learn to comfort a friend or a family member. Here are seven suggestions to consider:

1. Say I am sorry;
2. Give a hug;
3. Share why you liked the person who passed away;
4. Ask how was their last few moments with this person;
5. Recall a memory of that person;
6. Offer to help; and/or
7. Give something. Encourage your child to cook a meal or make a card. Listen carefully. You might find an opportunity to give something that holds meaning.