Members of Chapel Hill’s businesses community, along with business students at UNC, and a group of social entrepreneurs on Franklin Street got together recently to buy a car for a home-health worker who’s getting a second chance at life.

“Thank you,” a clearly stunned Loretha Greene told a group of applauding friends and well-wishers, as she looked at the white 2002 Lincoln town car with a red ribbon on top.

“Thank you all so much for being here,” she continued. “Oh my God.”

“So how does it feel to have your own car?” asked Jim Kitchen.

“I’m just so grateful, and thankful that you believed in me,” she replied.

Jim Kitchen, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, presented a 2002 white Lincoln Town car with a bow on top to Loretha Greene on Friday afternoon.

It was a total surprise. Kitchen used a good old-fashioned ruse to lure Greene to a coned-off parking spot on Franklin Street.

She arrived to find the car, and a group of cheering well-wishers and friends.

Community Empowerment Fund worked with about 80 of Kitchen’s Kenan-Flagler students to buy the car at a discount from Mark Jacobson Toyota.

CEF identified Greene as a worthy candidate for the gift, and the students raised about $5,000 through something they called the Trade-Up project.

Chris Jones, a rising junior at Kenan-Flagler, explained how the Trade-Up Project worked.

“Jim supplied us with these koozies that were custom-designed with his 1789 brand,” said Jones.

“This was an entrepreneurship class. So we traded the koozies up for, maybe, a DVD; and traded that up for some other kind of electronic. And what we did was, we got objects that had more value, sold them and gave the money to Jim so that we could get this car.

“And we learned a lot,” Jones said to Greene, “ and we’re glad we’re able to help you out.”

CEF is staffed by recent UNC graduates, and shares space with Kitchen’s start-up business incubator 1789 Venture Lab on Franklin Street.

“They have really done a great job transitioning the local homeless population into home ownership and beyond,” said Kitchen. “Loretha’s one of the start participants in that program.”

Loretha Greene moved to Chapel Hill in 2011. She enrolled in a residential treatment program for women and children with substance abuse or domestic violence issues.

She graduated from that program after one year, and got involved with Community Empowerment Fund.

On Tuesday, she’ll begin attending classes at Durham Tech for an associate degree in nursing. She was certified as a nursing assistant in December 2012, and is actively working in that field.

“I’ve also had to turn down a lot of CNA positions because I don’t have a vehicle,” said Greene. “And a really big part of working, maybe, in nursing homes or in home health care is being able to take clients different places, so they can still enjoy different activities of daily life.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt stopped by to watch Greene receive her new car. He praised her accomplishments, as well as the organizing effort it took to get this done.

“It’s a combination of for-profit businesses, and social ventures, and social entrepreneurship at work here, helping make our community a better place,” he said.

Greene also received a State Farm insurance policy for the car, a Shell gas card, and $350 of maintenance work from Al’s Garage. Jiffy Lube contributed some free oil changes. And University Florist made the bow that went on top of the car.

It was all for a worthy cause.

“You’re an amazing person,” Kitchen told Greene. “And we just wanted to bless you with this car. It’s yours!”

“It’s mine!” Greene exclaimed in disbelief. “It’s mine – really?”