MLK Day Is “A Day On.” Here’s How You Can Help.

Monday, January 18, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Chapel Hill and Hillsborough are both hosting marches to mark the occasion. Chapel Hill’s begins at 9 am with a rally at Peace and Justice Plaza, then continues to First Baptist Church on Roberson Street for an 11 am worship service; Hillsborough’s march begins at 9 am in front of the historic Orange County Courthouse at the corner of Churton and King Streets, then continues to Mt. Bright Baptist Church on Union Street for a service at 10:00.

But MLK Day is not just for marches and rallies: it’s also being set aside as a day for public service – “a day on, not a day off” – and a wide variety of charities and nonprofits in our area are holding special events.

In Durham, the organization Book Harvest is gearing up for its biggest event of the year: the “Dream Big Book Drive,” in which volunteers collect book donations to distribute to area kids. Book Harvest has collected more than 340,000 books since its founding in 2011, including 85,000 at the “Dream Big” drives alone. Last year’s drive brought in more than 25,000 books in a single afternoon. (This year, Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle officially declared Monday to be “Book Harvest Dream Big Book Drive Day.”)

This year’s “Dream Big” drive takes place from 1-4 pm at Durham Central Park, 501 Foster Street. Book Harvest operations manager Daniele Berman says 300 volunteers will be on hand to help collect your donations of new and gently used books. (She says Book Harvest distributes books to children and teens up to 18 years old, but they’re especially in need of books for toddlers and pre-K kids.)

Daniele Berman and her son Luke Jackson joined Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Also on Monday afternoon, Orange Habitat for Humanity is hosting an Interfaith Build in Efland – bringing people of many different faiths together to build a home for a neighbor in need. Inspired by the lives of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, the three students killed last February in Finley Forest, the Interfaith Build will unite volunteers from seven different local religious organizations, including three UNC groups. (Participating organizations: Kehillah Synagogue, Judea Reform, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Carolina Friends School, UNC Muslim Student Association, Campus Crusade for Christ, and UNC Hillel.)

Everyone’s welcome to the Interfaith Build’s kickoff event on Monday, which gets under way with lunch at 12:30 and a special program at 1:00. It’ll take place at 323 School House Road in Efland, in Habitat’s Tinnin Woods community.

Orange Habitat’s director of development Jennifer Player and four Interfaith Build volunteers joined Aaron Keck on WCHL.

Orange County Rape Crisis Center Exec Director Steps Down

Shamecca Bryant has stepped down from her position as executive director for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, the organization announced Monday evening.

Bryant joined the center in 2007 as the development director and has served as executive director for the last five years.

“The Center is truly a special place,” Bryant said in a release. “Working on behalf of survivors has been so rewarding. The support and healing that happens within and beyond our walls is bigger than all of us.”

Bryant also serves as vice chair of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to recognize Shamecca’s significant leadership over the years,” said Hathaway Pendergrass, president of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center Board of Directors. “The Center is well positioned for continued success thanks to her leadership and guidance.”

Alyson Culin will serve as the interim executive director of the agency while the board searches for a permanent successor, according to a release. Culin has served as the center’s development and communications director since 2010.

The position is listed on the organization’s website and applications are due by January 8, 2016.

Bryant’s resignation was effective December 21.

CHHS Grad Builds Playground For Haitian Orphanage

Chapel Hill High graduate Allie Parker has just returned from Haiti, where she and a team of 24 volunteers helped build a playground for orphaned children. Parker says the project was a hit with the kids.


“On the last day, right before we flew out, we went with them over to see it. They loved it,” Parker recalls. “I think at first they were a little confused, but after they all got out on it, they were having fun and they didn’t want to leave.”

The children at the Yahve-Jire Children’s Foundation range from infants to 18-year-olds. Some teens who have aged out of care at the facility stay on as staff members.

“A few of them have lost their parents to the earthquake, but most of them, their parents just can’t afford to keep them, so the owner has taken in 25 kids,” says Parker. She notes he has plans to expand to accommodate up to 60 children.


Parker and others raised $4,000 for the project in conjunction with the Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. This is her second trip to Haiti to help rebuild following the devastating earthquake five years ago.

She says she’d like to go on similar service project trips to Haiti and Nicaragua in the future. In the meantime, Parker is preparing to start classes at Virginia Tech this fall.

Meals On Wheels To Host ‘Dining For Dollars’

Meals on Wheels of Chapel Hill and Carrboro is hosting a fundraiser dinner Thursday at Hickory Tavern. The organization will use the money to help provide daily lunches to local senior citizens.

For some senior citizens, health problems and limited mobility can make putting together a mid-day meal a near-impossible undertaking. Meals on Wheels makes sure more than 150 local seniors who can’t stand over the stove still get a hot lunch.

“Our volunteers come, bring a hot meal that’s prepared by K&W and a warm smile, often special little gifts from school children in their area, spend a few minutes visiting and just allow those people to remain independent in their own homes,” says Executive Director of Chapel Hill and Carrboro Meals on Wheels Stacey Yusko.

Yusko says the organization is holding its fundraiser “Dining for Dollars,” because it needs money to help subsidize the cost of the lunches it provides. Yusko says a growing number of local seniors need help paying for their meals.

“We have also found that an increasing percentage of the people we serve are dealing with poverty,” says Yusko. “In 1996 I think Meals on Wheels only had to pay about 30 percent of the cost. This year, we’re paying 75 percent. There’s been a huge change in the amount that we have to fundraise. It’s completely changed the complexion of the organization.”

Dining for Dollars will be held Thursday from 6 pm to 9 pm at Hickory Tavern in Carrboro. Ticket-holders will receive dinner at Hickory Tavern and can bid on auction items. You can buy tickets online here.

It’s Not About Winning – It’s About Wining

You’re invited to a wine tasting, raffle and silent auction to benefit the Dispute Settlement Center, Thursday, April 30 at Southern Season.

It’s the DSC’s ninth annual fundraiser. This year’s event will primarily benefit the DSC’s youth programs – teaching conflict resolution and leadership skills to kids in schools and in the community.

View a list of the DSC’s other services here.

Silent auction items include gift certificates to numerous local restaurants; raffle prizes include a weekend at Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner hotel.

Photo of the 2014 wine tasting, courtesy of the Dispute Settlement Center.

Photo of the 2014 wine tasting, courtesy of the Dispute Settlement Center.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with DSC executive director Frances Henderson and DSC Board of Directors President Neil Offen.


The fundraiser at Southern Season will run from 5:30-7:30 pm. Tickets are $40 per person in advance, $50 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit

Photo of the 2014 wine tasting, courtesy of the Dispute Settlement Center.

Photo of the 2014 wine tasting, courtesy of the Dispute Settlement Center.

Eno River Association Seeks Help After Sewage Flood

The Eno River Association has been defending the environment for nearly fifty years, but last week the nonprofit faced a new type of threat.

“When we got to work on Monday morning, we found that the four toilets in our office building were overflowing and had flooded pretty much the entire building with something that was clearly sewage,” says Robin Jacobs, executive director of the Eno River Association.

She says a Durham City sewer main backed up, flooding the Guess Road office building with untreated sewage and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“They’re having to really gut the inside of the building, kind of like in a flood. The wallboard is coming out about a foot up from the floor and then everything below that is coming out and will essentially have to be rebuilt.”

You can watch a video tour of the damage here:

Initial estimates for the repairs range as high as $100,000. Jacobs says the nonprofit can expect to get some money from insurance and possibly some from the City of Durham, but not nearly enough to cover the losses.

“We’ll be paying for the rest of it with funds that we have,” says Jacobs. “Contributions are welcome and much appreciated.”

Though donations will help rebuild the office, Jacobs says much of what was lost was the organization’s history.

“We lost 45 years worth of archives, all kinds of information that people had collected over the history of the Eno River Association. That was destroyed.”

Still, the nonprofit is forging ahead with activities events including the beloved Festival on the Eno in July.

“We’ll just get through it. We are not going to let this be a setback. We’re still doing the things we do, working on land conservation,” says Jacobs.

The Eno River Association will temporarily relocate its office to Chapel Hill. Robins says the group is planning a dance party fundraiser on February 21 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro to raise money for repairs.

If you want to help, you can find out more here.

Sunday’s 5K Is “Not So Normal”

The Not So Normal 5K is finally here!

After two days of pre-race events around town on Friday and Saturday, the race will take place in Carrboro Sunday morning – with proceeds going to benefit dozens of local charities, especially the ArtsCenter in Carrboro and NC Children’s Promise.

Then at 4:00 pm, the event concludes with a free concert inside University Mall, featuring performances by DSI Comedy, local musicians Ella Bertram and the Buzztown Band, and the Nashville-based band Stereosparks.

Brian Buzby of the Buzztown Band stopped by WCHL this week to speak with Aaron Keck on “Aaron in the Afternoon.”

The whole affair has been organized by Jay Radford – a Chapel Hill dad who writes the “Mom in Chapel Hill” blog. For more information, visit

Local Church Fights Child Hunger

You may be planning to gain weight as you feast over the holiday season; but one in four kids in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools doesn’t have that option. A pastor at a local church is trying to help.

***Listen to the Story***

Chad Simpkins is the pastor at Varsity Church in Chapel Hill. He and his family moved here a few years ago. They were surprised to hear that child hunger is more common in the community than you might think.

“I grew up in North Carolina in Winston Salem, and I always thought Chapel Hill was this safety zone where there were no issues,” says Simpkins, “To hear that kind of blew us out of the water. So we’ve got to do something about that.”

The church found a handful of different programs to address the issue. One of those programs takes off this weekend for the second year in a row.

Simpkins, church members, and community volunteers are packing 10,000 meals for children in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange County, and Durham. It’s for a non-profit program known as “Feed 10,000”.

“Child Hunger affects so much of a child’s life,” Simpkins says.

“Not just that they don’t have food. It affects their educational abilities, and of course brings a lot of stress to families. This is more than just feeding stomachs. We feel like it’s feeding minds too.”

Simpkins says he doesn’t expect to resolve the issue of local child hunger in one weekend. But he says he hopes it brings awareness to the issue. He says he hopes people are motivated to take action.

“The resources are here,” says Simpkins: “But like me and our family, not knowing that need is there is a big problem. Anything we can do to get the word out, and get people involved to make a bigger dent in child hunger is great. There shouldn’t be a kid here that ever goes to bed hungry.”

300 volunteers packed the cafeteria at SmithMiddle School last year. Simpkins says it looks like they will do the same this season. He says if you want to volunteer, sign up before the spaces fill up.

“We want to make a difference in this community, but we also know we can’t do it on our own,” Simpkins says, “We want to do it with people in the community, whether they’re part of our church or not.”

To find out how you can help click here.

OC Residents Voice Concern Over County’s Building Plans

CHAPEL HILL- While many are focused on next year’s school budget, members of Orange County Voice are looking ahead to the county’s long-term building plans.

At a public hearing on Thursday, Orange County Voice President Bonnie Hauser asked the board to rethink the list of projects in the county’s $172 million dollar five-year capital investment plan.

“We fear that the county is too focused on new buildings, new campuses and new facilities and there’s not enough attention on the the quality and effectiveness of services,” said Hauser.

She critiqued both the $6.5 million dollar expansion of the Southern Human Services Center planned for 2016, and next year’s $1.5 million dollar renovation to the Whitted Building to provide a permanent meeting space for local governments.

“We’re hearing way too much from architects and designers, and not enough from the major stakeholders and experts on the ground including the professionals, the agencies, the schools, and the everyday users of the county services,” said Hauser. “We ask you to change the way the county plans for our future and make service, not buildings, a priority.”

Marilee McTigue argued in favor of improving cooperation between the Chapel Hill and Orange County library systems before the county invests $7 million dollars to build a library just a few miles away from Chapel Hill’s.

“So the question needs to be asked, should we make significant investments in library facilities, just because it’s been difficult to work with Chapel Hill?” asked McTigue. “What about the rural residents need for library services, many of whom travel more than 15 miles to get to a library. How will there needs be met, and where will the money come from?”

In both cases, Orange County Voice members asked the board to consider creating stakeholder work groups to assess community needs before committing funding to the projects.

The board also heard from those seeking funding for a variety on nonprofits. Northside resident Keith Edwards said Habitat for Humanity’s Brush with Kindness program has proved invaluable in her neighborhood. Volunteers helped repair her house in May.

“The experience was amazing. I know sooner or later I’m going to break down in tears of joy, because I’ve been asking God, ‘Why me?’” said Edwards. “I had a choice between getting dental work done or fixing my house. I chose the dental work, didn’t know how I was going to fix my house, and God blessed me with a brush of kindness.”

Representatives from the Carrboro ArtsCenter and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center also made their case for funding to support children’s programing and neighborhood preservation.

Commissioners will continue budget deliberations at a work session next Thursday at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.

Come Dance with the Stars of Carolina on Saturday

CHAPEL HILL- It’s time to cheer on Chapel Hill luminaries as they kick up their heels for a good cause.

The second annual Dancing with the Stars of Carolina takes place Saturday night at Kenan Stadium, and all proceeds go to support the Boys and Girls Club of Chapel Hill.

Event organizer and Board Chair Marla Benton says the club will meet a real need in our area.

“With Chapel Hill having over 600 families living below poverty, and children who are unsupervised at home and not having a safe place to go, this will be very important,” says Benton.

UNC Professor Debby Stroman will be one of the dancers gracing the floor. She says the wide range of participants is a great example of town and gown collaboration.

“It is one of the best examples of how we can work together as a university and a community,” says Stroman. “So we have a lot of people who are employed at the university and then of course, residents of the community. So it’s a nice mix.”

Other local celebrities include Chamber of Commerce President Aaron Nelson, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Assistant UNC Soccer Coach Grant Porter, and Tina Cunningham, wife of Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham.

They’ve been practicing their moves for months, and on Saturday they’ll be judged by a panel of dance professionals and celebrity judges, including UNC Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell, soccer star Carla Overbeck and basketball star Charlotte Smith.

Doors open at 7 o’clock and the dancing starts at 8 0’clock. Click here to find out more.