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.