UNC Student-Athletes Team Up with Habitat for Humanity for Efland Build

A group of UNC student-athletes traded their cleats for construction gear Saturday.

Luke Ciocca is a junior at UNC. He’s also a soccer player. On Saturday, he added handy man to his résumé.

“We’re mulching; we’re moving siding,” Ciocca said. “And I’ve come out and helped move cardboard as well as heavy lifting.”

Ciocca was one of over 100 UNC student-athletes who participated in the first Day of Service on Saturday. It’s a partnership with the Orange County Habitat for Humanity. Athletes from at least five different teams worked side-by-side with Habitat workers to finish a group of houses in Efland, so families could move in as quickly as possible.

“We wanted to find a summer project where a lot of our student-athletes could come together and give back to the community since they have a little more free time in the summer,” UNC assistant director for student-athlete services Korie Sawyer said at the event.

She said the project was so successful that they had almost too many people and not enough jobs to divvy up.

“This is the first time we’ve had kind of a big service project Day of Service,” Sawyer said. “And we think we might have to do it again in the fall and spring because there was a good turnout.”

Hannah Strom is the communications manager for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. She said Saturday was one of the most successful volunteer days Habitat has ever had.

“I think one of the great things about working with sports teams is that they’re so used to being a team and working together that they’re just a really fun group of students to work with,” Strom said.

Ciocca said he hopes to continue days of service with Habitat for Humanity, because he feels it’s so important to do something that helps the community.

“It’s something that UNC really tries to do is give back,” Ciocca said. “Especially student-athletes, because we have a lot of stuff that we get and so we try to give something back.”

Habitat for Humanity members also said they hope to plan more days of service like this in the future.


Habitat for Humanity ReStore Celebrates Seventh Birthday

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore off of 15-501 celebrated its seventh birthday last week, with raffles and discounts in their store and a birthday celebration on Friday. The store operates on donations of furniture, which are resold for low prices. The proceeds are then used to build houses for families in need in Durham and Orange County.

The birthday event on Friday included a cake donated by Kimmi’s Confection Expressions, a professional cake-decorating service located in Durham, close to the ReStore. In an interview with WCHL on Monday, Kimwa Walker, the business’ owner, discussed the cake donation.

“Because we’re such a fixture in the Durham and Chapel Hill community, we like to partner with community staples such as the ReStore. They’ve done so very much for Habitat for Humanity and for the [community],” said Walker. “We were delighted when we were invited to celebrate with them, because we love community partnerships. It was a privilege and an honor to be able to donate this cake to them to celebrate such a huge milestone for the [ReStore].”

WCHL’s Ron Stutts broadcasted live from the ReStore’s birthday celebration on Friday. Photos from the events are above.

Habitat ReStore communications manager Caitlyn West discussed the store’s seventh anniversary of officially coming under the Habitat for Humanity brand. Previously, the store operated similarly but independently from Habitat for Humanity.

“It was a very surreal moment, watching shoppers take pictures on their phones and sing along with the staff,” said West. “Months of hard work was finally coming to an end and it all turned out much better than I could have ever imagined.”

West also explained the goals of the weeklong celebration.

“Our overall goal was to reach a lucky 777 donated items,” West said. “Without donations, we wouldn’t have shoppers who make our daily operations possible. [They also] helped us reach our yearlong goal of building seven Habitat homes for seven families in honor of our seventh year as a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We exceeded our weeklong goal by reaching a lucky 902 donated items.”

The ReStore concluded their birthday week with 25% off couches on Saturday, July 2. The store will be celebrating its eighth birthday next year.


Two Groups Ask Town To Donate Property

Habitat for Humanity and a private citizen separately petitioned the town Monday night to donate a property on Gomains Ave. to build an affordable housing unit.

“Habitat has been working in the Northside community for a number of years now,” said Habitat executive director Susan Levy. “We’ve also been in the process over the last 18 months of putting together lots that we can start building on in the fall of 2016.”

Levy said the addition of this lot would make eight total and the residents of these homes would pay between 500 and 675 dollars a month.

Habitat has already started taking applications for these homes and have three times as many qualified applicants than they will have homes.

The second petition was put in by Lydia Mason, who is the treasurer at Empowerment, another local affordable housing service.

“I would like, as a private citizen, petition the town to look at a model whereby a private citizen could have the land donated for me to build an affordable home for rental,” Mason said. “Rental space is as demanding as home ownership.”

Rental versus ownership is the major difference between the two petitions. Habitat applicants pay for their home through an affordable 30-year mortgage, while Mason would set up an affordable rental property.

No matter which direction the town goes in, councilwoman Maria Palmer said she wants to see a space where multiple families could live.

“I know we are trying to preserve the character of the community,” she said. “But if we have three times more people that qualify than the possible maximum units we are looking to build, there is a disconnect there.”

The council did not discuss the matter or make any decisions Monday night and are continuing to evaluate their options.


“Small House” Comes To Chatham Habitat

Harvey Harman stands behind his students. Photo via ChathamHabitat.org.

It’s 512 square feet in size, it costs only $36,000 to build – and Chatham Habitat for Humanity officials say it could help address the affordable-housing crunch in our area.

It’s a “small house” – and Chatham Habitat is building one this summer in Pittsboro, in partnership with Central Carolina Community College and the Small House Institute.

Chatham Habitat Construction Director Harvey Harman is leading the build: he’s teaching a class on small-house construction this summer at Central Carolina, and his students are building the house with the help of Habitat volunteers.

See pictures and read more here.

In addition to being about half the cost to build than a typical Habitat house, Harman and Chatham Habitat executive director Jerry Whortan say a cluster of “small houses” could better serve some of the people in need of affordable housing – like seniors, singles, or young couples – who aren’t really in the market for a single-family home. (They also say the house is designed to be easily expanded if necessary.)

Whortan and Harman joined Aaron Keck earlier this month on the WCHL Afternoon News.

Construction is already under way on the small house at Chatham Habitat’s campus on 467 West Street in Pittsboro. Visit ChathamHabitat.org for more details or to arrange a tour.


Homeownership, Scholarship, Taxes And Snow Days

Are you thinking about buying a home? Wondering how you can afford it?

Chatham Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment are co-hosting a two-part Home Buyer’s Education Workshop in Pittsboro, on Thursday, March 6 and Thursday, March 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. You’ll learn tips for shopping for homes and mortgages, how to financially prepare, and how to maintain your home after you’ve bought it.

The workshop takes place at 467 West Street in Pittsboro. It’s free and open to the public; dinner, door prizes and child care will be provided. To RSVP, contact Amanda Stancil at EmPOWERment by calling 967-8779, or Anna Schmalz Rodriguez at Chatham Habitat by calling 542-0794.


Congratulations to Casey Rimland, a medical and doctoral student in the UNC School of Medicine who was recently named as a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Created with a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides students with a three-year full scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England. Between 80 and 100 Gates Scholarships are awarded annually; Rimland is the second honoree from UNC.

Casey Rimland is originally from Charlotte and graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2011. She’s also a thyroid cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in her first year of medical school.


To compensate for all the snow days, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board has updated the district’s class schedule for the rest of the school year.

There were three remaining days on the district’s calendar that were set aside as delayed-opening days, but all three have now been changed to regular school days. Those three days are March 13, April 10 and May 8 – all originally delayed opening, but now functioning as regular, full school days. Students should report to school at the regular time.


Congratulations to the AVID students from Smith Middle School, winners of this year’s sixth annual Black History Knowledge Bowl!

The event is sponsored every year by the Mu Omicron Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It’s a competition between students at Culbreth, McDougle and Smith Middle Schools who participate in the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination). This year’s Knowledge Bowl took place at Culbreth Middle School on February 22; Smith took first and Culbreth took second.


Results are in for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Survey, and the numbers indicate that—for the most part—residents are extremely happy with the town’s services.

More than 90 percent of residents who responded say they’re satisfied with the town’s fire department, library, and trash collection services; more than 80 percent say they’re satisfied with Chapel Hill’s park maintenance and police department. Those numbers are “well above regional and national benchmarks,” according to a release from the Town.

On the down side, residents said they were most concerned with traffic congestion and “how well the Town is preparing for the future,” and also said the Town could do a better job providing affordable housing and “access to quality shopping.”

You can check out the full results at TownOfChapelHill.org/survey.


It’s tax season—and if you need tax forms, the Orange County Public Library is offering select forms for free. Those forms include the 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, Schedule A, Schedule B and Schedule SE.

In addition, the Orange County Department on Aging is offering its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program—VITA for short—which provides free income tax preparation for qualifying individuals with low- to middle-incomes, regardless of age or county of residence.

For more information or to find out if you qualify, visit OrangeCountyNC.gov/aging/VITA.asp.


UNC has received a grant of more than $40 million from the National Institutes of Health, to fund a global clinical trials unit working to treat and prevent the spread of HIV.

The grant will fund five clinical research sites through the year 2021. Three of those sites are located in North Carolina; the other two are located in Africa, in Malawi and Zambia.

UNC received $430 million in external funding for HIV research between 2008 and 2012. The university is ranked as one of the top 10 programs in America for HIV/AIDS research.



Honors, Tours, And Curiosities!

Congratulations to Desaray Rockett, Judith Blau, and Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe–winners of this year’s Pauli Murray Awards.

The Orange County Human Relations Commission gives out the Pauli Murray Awards each year to a youth, an adult, and a business in Orange County “who serve the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.”

This year’s winners were honored at a ceremony on Sunday, February 23, at 3:00 in the Central Orange Senior Center. Also honored were Judah Kalb and Nathan Bell – both students at Smith Middle School, and both winners of the Orange County Human Relations Commission’s 2013 Student Essay Contest.

As part of a class on African American Studies, Kalb and Bell wrote about the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kalb won first place in the essay contest; Bell took second.


UNC has honored Roberto G. Quercia, chair of the City and Regional Planning department, with the university’s 2013 C. Felix Harvey Award.

Awarded by the Provost’s office, the honor recognizes “exemplary faculty scholarship that reflects one of UNC’s top priorities and addresses a real-world challenge.” It includes a $75,000 prize, which Quercia will use to develop the Bridges2Success Scholar Athlete Support Program, an academy that trains middle and high school coaches to promote academic success among male athletes of color.

To learn more about the program, visit Bridges2Success.org.


You’re invited to the annual meeting of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Wednesday, March 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.

Speakers will include Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue and Al Bowers, the owner of Al’s Burger Shack.


Before there were art museums and science museums, there were “Cabinets of Curiosities”: densely packed rooms where scholars and nobles displayed rare and fascinating items from shells to gems to old relics and bizarre devices.

Now, UNC’s Wilson Library is celebrating those old exhibits with an exhibit of its own, “Rooms of Wonder,” on display through April 20. The exhibit features rare books and catalogs from the old rooms–as well as items from the UNC Rare Book Collection’s own “cabinet of curiosities,” including ancient Babylonian tablets, an Egyptian papyrus roll, and an “Incan record-keeping device consisting of intricately knotted threads.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public.


Wednesday, March 5, you’re invited to campus for a free screening of the documentary “Breaking Through,” chronicling the stories of LGBT elected officials across the country–including Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. Senator.

The film begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in UNC’s FedEx Global Education Center. Director/producer Cindy Abel and editor Michael Bruno will be on hand, and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring North Carolina’s LGBT elected officials–including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, Town Council member Lee Storrow, Alderman Damon Seils, and State Representative Marcus Brandon.

You can watch the trailer online at BreakingThroughMovie.com.


Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center just completed a successful canned food drive, collecting nearly 1,000 cans of food for the IFC by offering customers a $10 discount on oil changes if they brought in four cans of food.

IFC officials say those cans will be used to help about 450 different families in the area.

To learn how you can donate, visit IFCWeb.org.


Chatham Habitat for Humanity is teaming up with the MassMutual Life Insurance Company to give away free $50,000 term life insurance policies to benefit children of working families in Pittsboro.

You are eligible to apply if you’re a permanent legal U.S. resident of good health between the ages of 19 and 42, with a total family income between $10,000 and $40,000, and a parent or legal guardian of a child under 18.

You can apply at a one-day public event on Saturday, March 8, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Chatham Habitat for Humanity office at 467 West Street in Pittsboro.


You’re invited to explore the history of Hillsborough on Saturday, March 8, with a one-hour guided walking tour hosted by the Alliance of Historic Hillsborough.

The tour begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Hillsborough Visitors Center and winds through the center of the Piedmont’s oldest town, visiting schoolhouses, old homes and cemeteries along the way.

Tickets are $5 per person; children under 12 are free.


Habitat’s “Mixed Concrete;” VITA; Hillsborough’s “Take A Closer Look”

CHAPEL HILL – This weekend brings the third annual “Mixed Concrete” art auction to Chapel Hill, with proceeds to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Featuring local artists working with a variety of materials, the show runs from Friday to Sunday, January 24-26, at TRU Deli + Wine Bar on the corner of Rosemary and Henderson. There will be an opening reception on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

To see some of the art online or to donate to the cause, visit MixedConcrete.org.


From now through March, the Hillsborough Arts Council is offering walking tours of the town’s sculptures. The guided tour is called “Take A Closer Look;” it will focus on four of the six sculptures that have been on display since last April.

Tours begin at the Hillsborough Arts Council Gallery on N. Churton Street, at 1:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. The tours are free (though donations are accepted), and they last one to one and a half hours.


With tax season officially upon us, Orange County is once again offering the RSVP-VITA tax preparation service for low- to middle-income residents in need of assistance this year

“VITA” is short for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It’s a free program sponsored by the IRS. It begins in February in Orange and Chatham Counties.


To make an appointment by phone, call:

Orange County: 919.245.4242 (English)

Orange County:  919.245.2010 (Spanish)

Compass Center for Women and Families: 919.968.4610 (English only)

Chatham County: 919.542.4512 (Angel Dennison)

Chatham County: 919.742.1448 (Spanish)


Northside Sees “A Brush With Kindness”

CHAPEL HILL – Take a drive through Chapel Hill’s historic Northside neighborhood and you’ll experience “A Brush With Kindness”.

Saturday, your neighbors in Northside held a celebration for work done by Habitat for Humanity.

“A Brush with Kindness is an exterior repair program through Habitat, and the Northside community has kind of organized itself,” Community Development Manager, Adwoa Asare, said.” With the help of the Jackson center and the University they said they are in need of exterior home repair.”

Habitat held a dedication Saturday to its “A Brush with Kindness” program.

Habitat received funding for this project from the Town of Chapel Hill’s Town’s Affordable Housing Fund.  Using this money, Habitat has worked with several houses in the area to improve the exterior.

“This is our fourth repair we’ve done in the Northside community since April, so April was the first two repairs that we did,” Asare said. “We did another one last month and this is our fourth, and we’re hoping to do five before September. We’ve gotten funding from the Town of Chapel Hill, 25,000 dollars to do five a Brush for Kindness repairs for Northside and Pine Knolls”

Habitat worked in partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill, the Jackson Center, and UNC’s Good Neighbor Initiative. Asare said many of the volunteers for this project came from the neighborhoods around Northside and UNC.

UNC’s Good Neighbor Intitiative works with residents and students to improve the communication and contact between them.  Director of Fraternity and Sorority life in community involvement, Aaron Bachenheimer, said it’s taken a team effort to put the project together.

“We’ve certainly, along with the Jackson center, I would say our office has been one of the primary organizations that has helped look for volunteers” Bachenheimer said.

Volunteers from the area and members worked for three days to improve the house of life-long resident Janie Alston.

Alston said she was very pleased to have the help of Habitat to make repairs to her home and she thanked them during the celebration.  Along with a prayer from her church, Alston was given a new bible from Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is always looking for new volunteers or people to donate to their cause.  They have currently been working to improve Northside, Pineknolls, and Roger’s Road.


Building More Than Homes

It was another special Sunday in our community and I witnessed another amazing event. On September 18th more than 200 people gathered on the grass at the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s Phoenix Place to enjoy a lunch and dedicate the 10 homes built in a program called “Build A Block.” So many things about this project were just extraordinary, but here’s what stood out to me.
First, the idea to do this came from UNC student Megan Jones who led the Habitat Chapter at UNC during the planning and execution phases. The chapter typically built two houses a year, but when she learned that there were many UNC families applying for Habitat homes who might not receive one, she proposed bringing several schools and departments together to build an entire block of 10 homes.
She ran her idea by Patti Thorp, who described herself as “the cheerleader,” and with contagious enthusiasm and excitement, she helped the project idea come to life. Not only was there no UNC money used, but the group came up with creative ways to raise the $350,000required to build the10 homes. They also were able to encourage more than 1400 members of the UNC community to work some 7,052 hours alongside the future homeowners. In the Habitat model, homeowners are asked to contribute the required number of “sweat equity” hours to the program. Speakers indicated that those who worked on the project came together on Saturdays as strangers but left as friends.

How do you feel about this accomplishment?

More than just building bonds while building homes, participants understood that they were helping fellow members of the UNC family to own a home. New homeowner Latesha Foushee indicated that this project added so much to her life and would allow her family to live in a quality home in a safe neighborhood. In speaking for all of the new homeowners, she indicated that the experience was a true blessing.
Another special thing about Sunday was that Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity and a UNC alumnus, attended the event and did the formal dedication. He also expressed pride in the fact the UNC Habitat club set a new standard for campus chapters, as this was the largest Habitat project undertaken by any university club in the country. Thus, it’s no surprise that UNC’s Habitat Club received the award for being the top campus chapter in the nation.  As Reckford quipped, UNC is the “University of National Champions.”
I have to believe that all in attendance, from the community members to the new home-owning families, had to feel the specialness of the event. Each of the sponsoring schools and departments received Habitat for Humanity hammers as a token of appreciation, presented by students Franklin Niblock, co-chair of the UNC Habitat Club, and Lauren Blanchet, co-chair of the UNC Build a Block project. Both Patti and Holden Thorp also assisted with the presentations. 
Yes, it was a special day; a day to remember the work of our great students, staff and faculty, and remember how dreams and visions can do so much good for others. The hammers are great reminders of what this new group of friends “hammered” out over the weeks they spent on the project. They are also particularly special because they symbolize that while they used hammers to “Build A Block,” they actually built something much, much more than homes.