IFC Executive Director Resigns to be Closer to Family

Michael Reinke has resigned his position as executive director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service – IFC.

Reinke issued his resignation in order to be closer to family after recent health concerns, according to a release from the IFC announcing his resignation.

Reinke is quoted in the release saying, “After my father’s heart surgery and spending time with my daughters, I realized that the needs of my family were such that I should find a way to be closer to them.”

Reinke’s resignation was effective August 22.

The IFC Board of Directors accepted his resignation and wished him well. IFC will now conduct a search for a replacement executive director.

In the interim, director of operations Kristen Lavergne, retired executive director John Dorward and the IFC board president, vice president and executive committee will lead the organization.

Reinke had been with the Inter-Faith Council since August 2015.


IFC Community Kitchen Manager Donna Bradley Passes Away

Donna Bradley, who managed the Inter-Faith Council’s Community Kitchen for many years, has passed away after battling cancer.

IFC executive director Michael Reinke announced Bradley’s passing in an e-mail on Friday.

Reinke wrote that Bradley “passed away peacefully surrounded by her loved ones.”

A story on Orange County’s website describes Bradley as someone who learned from an early age to take advantage of what was available.

“An Orange County native, Donna Bradley learned to cook from her grandmother. They grew much of their own food; thus Donna learned from an early age to start with what was on hand.”

Funeral arrangements have not been announced at this time.


IFC Makes Final Decision on Community Kitchen Location

After months of debate, the Inter-Faith Council decided upon the location for FoodFirst, its new community kitchen.

The council Board of Directors unanimously voted to select 110 West Main Street in Carrboro as the new home for the kitchen which serves between 75 and 100 people a day.

Michael Reinke is the executive director of the Inter-Faith Council. He said the decision comes after much deliberation and input from the community.

“We’ve been looking at this question for a long time, and I think it was really important that this be a community process. So we’ve been talking to stake holders, people that we serve and the neighbors in the area.”

During the months of research, Reinke said the council reviewed 10 different locations and analyzed a number of different factors.

The final two choices, 110 West Main Street and 303 Jones Ferry Road, both had their advantages, Reinke said. But what broke the tie was the community response.

“When we talked to the people that we serve, the people that volunteer, the people who support the IFC in so many ways, they were thinking that 110 West Mains Street is a better overall location. And at least as many people were saying they didn’t want 303 Jones Ferry Road.”

Other factors in choosing 110 West Main Street include transportation options and proximity to downtown.

“110 West Main Street has significantly better access to public transportation than 303 Jones Ferry Road. As many of the people we serve are using public transportation, that was a pretty important factor in making a decision.”

The location also offered more potential for adding additional programming, Reinke said.

Another bonus to the location is the fact that the IFC already owns 110 West Main Street. The council currently operates its food pantry as well as their administrative and community service offices from that building.

Local business owners and residents raised concerns about the kitchen’s location during a public meeting in March. Reinke said these concerns prompted the council to make the process as transparent and open as possible.

“Look at the process. We did it deliberately, we were inclusive, took our time, we looked at all the different factors that we could possibly consider. And I think we made a very reasonable decision.”

Reinke said he understands the community’s concerns and appreciates that people have been so involved in the kitchen’s future.

“It’s one of the main safety nets for people who are living in poverty in Chapel Hill and Carrboro and more broadly, in Orange County. And with anything that’s important, people are going to have some pretty strong feelings about that.”

Reinke said he hopes to take these strong feelings going forward and continue open communication with the town.

“We’re going to take that same process in terms of the design of the building, how it fits in with the neighborhood and make sure that we’re listening to the people who have concerns. And we’re going to address them as best as we can.”

The next steps for the IFC include preparing a petition for conditional rezoning as per Carrboro regulations. The petition will be submitted in the fall along with building plans that will be presented to the public for review and comment.


Local Shelters Opening Emergency Services with Frigid Temps

The IFC Community House will open its doors for emergency shelter once again on Tuesday night with temperatures expected to drop to the low-20’s or upper teens overnight.

The Durham Rescue Mission also has provided emergency shelter this week with below-freezing temperatures.

The Community House is now located at 1315 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

Homeless men in Orange County seeking shelter can call the Community House at (919) 967-1086 before four o’clock in the afternoon to sign up for a space. Those seeking shelter can also arrive at the Community Kitchen at 100 West Rosemary Street at six o’clock to eat dinner and be transported to the shelter.


Remembering the Homeless

Hymns were sung and prayers were read as members of the Inter-Faith Council gathered on Monday to remember the homeless who died in the past year.

The gathering took place at the Peace and Justice Plaza in downtown Chapel Hill. The ceremony was short but powerful. A list of names of those who died struggling with homelessness in the past year was read.

Afterwards participants enjoyed hummus and falafel as they shared why they came. “We are here to honor to lives of those who have died because of homelessness, to recall their humanity and recall that they were created in the divine image,” said Jen Feldman, Rabbi at Kehillah Synagogue. She was one of the organizers of the event.

The memorial was held on the winter solstice to mark the longest night of the year. The cold winter months are difficult for the homeless community and services during this season often become strained.

The Inter-Faith Council works with the homeless in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The Community House on Martin Luther King Boulevard is the focus of this work. The Community House opened in September and replaced the former IFC center on Rosemary Street.

The Community House hosts up to 52 men in long-term programs, as well as emergency housing when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. The IFC also sponsors the program, Homestart, which helps homeless women and children in the area.

A rise in the cost of living in Chapel Hill over the last decade has put more pressure on the homeless, according to Mike Reinke, executive director of Inter-Faith Council.

“Housing prices have gone up, which means that rental prices have gone up,” said Reinke, “which means that if you’re on a fixed income, if you’re working part-time or only able to find seasonally work then you’re not able to find housing.”

In addition to simple things like making donations, Reinke offered some more ideas on how to help the homeless.

“What do we need to do as a community? We need to do advocacy to talk about how important it is that everybody in our community is supported, healthy and strong,” said Reinke.

“[Those] whose stories often times are forgotten, they disappear, and we don’t want anyone to disappear,” said Reinke. “Our community is stronger as the sum of its parts, not just the parts that we see that look pretty but all of us together. Hopefully today we have a slightly stronger community and a better community.”


Participating RSVVP Day Restaurants

RSVVP means “Restaurants Sharing 10 Percent.”  The Vs are Roman Numerals.  Participating restaurants contribute 10 percent of their total proceeds on RSVVP Day to benefit the IFC FoodFirst food programs: Food Pantry and Community Kitchen.

This year’s RSVVP Day is Tuesday, November 10, 2015.  Over 100 restaurants are participating.

In 2014, more than $26,000 was raised on RSVVP Day.

Participating RSVVP Day Restaurants

2nd Wind
411 West
ACME Food & Beverage
Akai Hana
Alfredo’s Pizza Villa
Al’s Burger Shack
Amante Gourmet Pizza – Carrboro
Amante Gourmet Pizza – Falconbridge
Armadillo Grill
Bagel Bar (The)
Bandido’s Mexican Cafe – Chapel Hill
Bandido’s Mexican Cafe – Hillsborough
Bin 54 Steak & Cellar
Blue Horn Lounge (The)
Bread & Butter Bakery Cafe
Cafe Parizade – Durham
Caffe Driade
Captain John’s Dockside Fish & Crab House
Carolina Club (The)
Carolina Coffee Shop
Carrboro Pizza Oven
Chick-fil-A at University Mall
City Kitchen
Crook’s Corner
Crossroads at the Carolina Inn
Daily Grind Espresso Cafe
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – Durham
Domino’s Pizza – Banks Drive
Domino’s Pizza – Carrboro
Domino’s Pizza – Fordham Boulevard
Elaine’s on Franklin
Elmo’s Diner
Fiesta Grill
Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub
Franklin Hotel (Roberts Lounge)
Friends’ Cafe
Gourmet Kingdom
Guanajuato Mexican Restaurant
Hickory Tavern
Hunam Chinese
Il Palio at the Siena
Jade Palace Chinese & Seafood Restaurant
Jersey Mike’s Subs – Chapel Hill North
Jersey Mike’s Subs – Elliott Road
Joe Van Gogh – Chapel Hill
Joe Van Gogh – Durham
K&W Cafeteria
Kalamaki Greek Street Food
Kipos Greek Taverna
La Hacienda
La Residence
La Vita Dolce Espresso & Gelato Cafe
Linda’s Bar & Grill
Local 22 Kitchen & Bar
Loop Pizza Grill (The)
Lucha Tigre
Mama Dip’s Kitchen
Margaret’s Cantina
Mediterranean Deli, Bakery & Catering
Mellow Mushroom
Mint Indian Cuisine
Mixed Casual Korean Bistro
Nantucket Grill & Bar – Farrington Road
Nantucket Grill & Bar – Sutton Station
Nasher Museum Café – Durham
Neal’s Deli
Neo-China – Durham
Oasis in Carr Mill
Oishii Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar
Open Eye Cafe
Orange County Social Club
Pantana Bob’s
Pita Grill Homemade Mediterranean Cuisine
Queen of Sheba’s
Red Bowl Asian Bistro
Root Cellar (The)
Sage Vegetarian Cafe
Sal’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant
Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar
Steel String Craft Brewery
Subway – Franklin St.
Subway – Glenwood Square
Subway – Timberlyne
Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
Thai Palace
The Egg & I
The Pig
Top of the Hill
Town Hall Grill
Tru Deli + Wine
Tyler’s Taproom – Carrboro
Vespa Ristorante
Village Burgers
Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe
Weathervane at Southern Season
Weaver Street Market – Carrboro
Weaver Street Market – Hillsborough
Weaver Street Market – Southern Village
Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe

Carrboro Debates IFC’s Plan To Relocate Community Kitchen

The Inter-Faith Council is in the process of splitting up its Community Kitchen and Men’s Shelter. The new transitional housing facility has opened on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill, and now, IFC leaders are looking to relocate the Community Kitchen to West Main Street in Carrboro, to share space with the food pantry on that site.

Tuesday’s discussion in the topic by the Board of Aldermen began with a dry dissection of zoning and land use, but quickly shifted to a heated debate on how best to help those in need while addressing the worries of nearby business owners.

“I found it really offensive, the way it says ‘Diners shall be instructed to disperse from the property after exiting.’ That’s disgusting,” said Randee Haven-O’Donnell, responding to a proposed regulation in the land use ordinance designed to keep crowds from loitering outside the kitchen after meals. “It’s one thing to say we have to feed hungry people, but if we’re not going to be fully consistent with how folks need to be respected and given dignity, we’re failing.”

The Community Kitchen serves free food to anyone who’s hungry. According to the IFC, between 75 and 125 people eat lunch or dinner at their current facility. Lunch is served for an hour and 15 minutes. Dinner lasts just 45 minutes.

Town staffers say the volume of guests arriving and departing in such a short time poses planning challenges. They put forward a land use plan that calls for a crowd management plan, as well as stipulations requiring security personnel, additional lighting, and more trash cans.

Alderwoman Bethany Chaney opposed these constraints, saying they stigmatize those in need.

“What I’m afraid that we are doing by making a very expansive change or addition to the land use ordinance here, is making bad policy that will victimize people further,” said Chaney.

Several on the board chastised town planners for catering to what they deemed baseless fears.

But Alderwoman Jacquie Gist pushed back. She says she’s heard from many business owners in Carrboro worried about the relocation of the Community Kitchen, and she urged her peers not to downplay those concerns.

“What we do, is we look for ways to make it work, without blaming the person who’s worried, very justifiably, about the impact on their business or their home,” said Gist. “We don’t say, ‘Oh, you’re making unfair assumptions.’ No, they’re not. They are based on reality, and we’ve got to address that stuff up front.

I’m asking some of these questions because of the citizens of Carrboro who have come to me and said, ‘These are things I’m worried about and I’m scared to ask them because somebody’s going to think I’m a jerk.’ We have got to have a way to have this conversation without people being judged.”

All agreed the community needs a chance to weigh in. Board members say they don’t want to see Carrboro’s process become as polarized and negative as Chapel Hill’s year-long battle to approve a site for the IFC’s new Men’s Shelter.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle offered an olive branch to board members on both sides.

“I think really, folks, we’re all a lot closer than it seems right now,” said Lavelle. “Everyone here has good intentions. Everyone here wants to find a way to move this forward and have this community conversation.”

The board voted 5-2 to send the ordinance back to town staff for revision, with Gist and Haven-O’Donnell opposed.

The revision will come back to the board for comment. Once the land use plan is approved, the IFC will likely move forward with a request to rezone the site on West Main Street.


IFC Community House To Focus On Permanent Housing For OC’s Homeless

With the opening of the new Community House, the Inter-Faith Council hopes to change how Orange County helps the homeless.

“I believe that architecture reflects how we live our lives, and if we can design a building helps people move to where they want to go, there’s a much better chance that they’ll be able to take those steps and be successful,” says IFC Executive Director Michael Reinke, talking about the new facility that will house 52 men while they transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

“They’ll be working a plan. Everybody will have a plan to say, ‘How am I going to get to a point where I can have permanent housing?’ or ‘I can be living on my own.’ For some folks than might be as short as a couple of weeks or a month. For some that may take as long as a year.”

As clients move through the program and meet progress goals, they’ll get rewarded with more personal space and autonomy. At the start, men will stay in dorms with seven other residents, but by the time they graduate, they’ll be sharing a room with just one roommate and have access to semi-private showers. Reinke notes progress comes with other perks as well.

“When you get to stage three, you get the key to the room,” explains Reineke. “Certainly staff will also have a key, but having that ownership, having to say ‘OK, this is the place where I stay,’ is a significant incentive.”

To get to stage three, residents must work on resumes, job counseling, vocational training, housing plans and health needs. Reinke says the facility was designed with those multiple goals in mind.

“I’ve seen shelters in at least five or six different states, and I’ve probably visited close to 200. I’ve never actually seen a shelter that has a medical clinic housed within the actual shelter, so this is pretty amazing from my perspective.”

There’s also a library, a fitness room, and a separate bathroom for transgender clients.

“As far as we know, we are the only shelter that has a bathroom for people who identify as transgender, so we are incredibly pleased to be able to offer that to Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” says Reinke.

Those amenities are made possible by community partnerships. The medical and dental clinics will be staffed by doctors, nurses and dentists from Piedmont Health. The fitness equipment was donated by the Carol Woods retirement community, and the State Employees Credit Union Foundation donated $1 million dollars to kick off construction of the building as a whole. In addition, individuals volunteer time and skills for everything from meal preparation to job counseling.

Reinke says the new location is a big improvement on the current Men’s Shelter at the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets.

“The old municipal building was designed to be a court house; it was designed to be a town hall; it was designed to be a jail at one point. It was never designed to be doing laundry for 50-70 indiviual at any given time, never mind making meals for up to 200 people on any given day.”

The new space off Homestead Road also means the organization will take a different approach to housing the homeless, focusing on transitional housing more than immediate shelter. The old location doubled as an emergency shelter where homeless men could drop in as needed, but at the new Community House, only residents enrolled in the program will stay there on a regular basis. There’s space for 17 drop-ins during periods of extreme cold weather, but that’s all.

Former Executive Director John Dorward says the IFC will be looking to other community partners to step up this winter when the temperature drops.

“Last winter we averaged over 20 people per night,” says Dorward. “Normally that would be enough, but a couple of the shelters in Durham have cut back a little on what they will do on emergency or ‘white flag’ nights. So there may be some times when there are extra people. We’re not quite sure how that will be handled yet, but we’re sure the community will step up and we’ll find a way to handle that.”

Those 17 emergency beds were a major point of contention when the IFC sought approval for the new site from the Town Council. Neighbors worried the shelter would draw crime to the area, and that those turned away from the shelter would stay in nearby parks instead. Reinke says the IFC has been working to build relationships with neighbors. The organization has set up a hotline to respond to any reported problems.

If you’d like to take a look at the long-awaited facility, the ribbon-cutting for the new Community House is Monday, September 21 at 8 a.m., followed by a reception and open house. Reinke says everyone is invited.

“I have never seen a building that has the kind of resources that we’ll be able to offer here at the Community House. You’re going to see all the things that you would hope for in a shelter; you’ll see bright rooms with lots of windows. But you’ll also see some really amazing things that will help provide people the resources they need to get back on their feet for permanent housing.”

You can find out more here.


Retiring IFC Director Praises Replacement: ‘Much More Qualified’

The executive director of a Chapel Hill organization dedicated to providing shelter and other services to those in need is passing the mantle to a new leader next month.

John Dorward served as executive director of the the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service for the past two years, after working with the organization for more than a decade. He’s rightfully proud of the SECU Community House – a homeless shelter for men – that will officially open in Chapel Hill in late September.

“One of the first things that I started working on when I came here – I’m on my 13th year now – was coming up with a new space, and being able to actually build a men’s shelter for the first time,” said Dorward.

Dorward said he’s proud that IFC has made it through the recent recession without cutting services. If anything, he said, the numbers of people served by IFC actually went up over the past few years. The organization managed to find the funding.

Newly appointed Executive Director Michael Reinke starts his job on Aug.17. Dorward said he’s happy with the change.

“I was supposed to retire a couple of years ago,” said Dorward. “But Chris Moran, who was the previous executive director here at the IFC, ran into some medical issues that came up, and he decided that it was time for him to step down.

“And so, we kind of looked around, and I seemed to be the right choice.”

IFC was just starting its capital campaign for the Community House at the time Dorward took the helm.

Prior to that, Dorward was named associate director in 2007. Most of his professional career has been spent working for non-profits. He joined IFC after working 23 years for Ipas.

The Chapel Hill organization works on women’s reproductive health projects, mostly in the developing world.

Dorward said that when he started at Ipas, the annual budget was around $500,000 a year. Over time, he saw it grow to around $19 million.

“It had gotten so large that it was like working for an IBM or somebody like that,” said Dorward. “Almost all the work was overseas, and I ran the operational side here. So I never really interacted with the people that we were helping.”

So he amicably left Ipas to take a job as finance director with IFC. Now, whenever he’s having a bad day, he can directly thank the community he works with for lifting his spirits.

“I can always walk downstairs, or go to any of our other facilities, and talk to the people that we’re working with, and that we’re helping,” said Dorward, “and it always makes me feel better about it. When I go home at the end of the day, no matter what else I got done that day, I know that we made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Dorward said he’d like to continue working for IFC as a volunteer, and he praised his replacement, Michael Reinke.

“I think he is much more qualified than I ever was to be able to fill this role,” said Dorward. “I keep telling people that we’re giving you an upgrade. I really, truly believe that. He has the educational background and the work background. I mean, he started off as an executive director running homeless shelters, and community kitchens.”

Reinke, who holds M.B.A. and Master of Divinity degrees, has worked for the past 20 years as executive director of four local and statewide nonprofit organizations.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the SECU Community House takes place Sept. 21.


IFC is Hard at Work Feeding Hungry Families at Holiday Time

With two shelters, a food pantry and a community kitchen to run, the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service has a lot on the plate during the holidays – literally.

The executive director recently told WCHL that wage stagnation is keeping the charitable organization busier than ever. But there are ways you can help.

This year, the IFC provided a little more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to households in Orange County, according to Executive Director John Dorward.

The IFC had originally planned on providing about 350 holiday dinners.

“We thought that maybe we could cut back a little from last year, when we did 400 meals,” said Dorward. “The economy is supposed to be getting better. But, apparently, I was wrong about that.”

The IFC is still shooting for 350 meals at Christmas, but that, too, could change.

“I think a lot of it is just that people are still not seeing their wages going up,” said Dorward. “A lot of this goes back to wages, and what people can earn during the course of an average week, or an average month.

“What we’re seeing is that those salaries are not living wages. So, people are just running short.”
Most of the families served by the food pantry have at least one worker in the home, and sometimes that person is holding down two jobs, according to Dorward. But when someone is making minimum wage, or not much more than that, it can be difficult to get through the month.

Dorward said more than 4,000 households in Orange County are signed up for IFC services.

“The only encouraging thing that I can tell you is that the numbers of people coming in, and the numbers of bags of groceries that are going out are not going up anymore,” said Dorward. “They have kind of stabilized. But they stabilized at about 50-to-60 percent higher tha what it was before the great recession.”

IFC has been providing these services for about a decade, and it’s getting help and supplementation for various sources.

The PORCH organization, whose advisory board includes Mayors Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill and Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro, provides food for families and pantries in those towns.

Another group, TABLE, provides emergency food to hungry children in the area.

Members of United Church of Chapel Hill help out IFC with everything from food donations, fundraising efforts, and even some cooking.

Recently, the IFC has partnered with Farmer Foodshare to offer fresh local fruits and vegetables, along with the traditional ham, turkey, and fixin’s for the holiday dinner.

Farmer Foodshare originated with the Carrboro Farmers Marker several years ago, and has spread throughout the state. The program gives farmers and shoppers a chance to share or buy a little extra for those in need.

And there’s the annual RSVVP Day, which fell this year on Nov. 11. Participating restaurants contributed 10 percent of their total proceeds toward the IFC’s food pantry and community kitchen.

“It has the possibility of being the best RSVVP day we’ve ever had,” said Dorward. “We ended up with 115 restaurants. Half of the have already sent their money in. And we’ve already collected almost $13,000.”

If the other half does as well, he said, then an all-time record will be achieved.

You can go to ifcweb.org for more information, if you’d like to help.