A Chapel Hill woman’s transition out of homelessness has been made easier with the gift of a car, thanks to the efforts of budding entrepreneurs at UNC.

Equashia Mumeen hollered so loud with joy on Friday afternoon when she saw her new Honda Civic for the first time, the car’s alarm hollered right back at her.

“Mr. Kitchen – you know I’m giving you a kidney, don’t you?” she yelled to Jim Kitchen as she ran out of Granville Towers West, where she works as a kitchen assistant.

The car was presented to Mumeen at Granville Towers West, where she works as a kitchen assistant.

“Mr. Kitchen” is a social entrepreneur and instructor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. It’s the third time since May 2014 that he’s teamed with the Community Empowerment Fund to choose a lucky recipient of a good used car.

There were smiles all around as Kitchen enjoyed Mumeen’s reaction, along with some of his students, members of the Community Empowerment Fund, and a sales manager from Crown Honda.

Kitchen praised Mumeen for the work she’s done to improve her situation.

“She is one of the Community Empowerment Fund’s star members,” said Kitchen. “She has made so much progress over the last couple of years she’s been working with CEF. She has attended her classes there on becoming more financially independent.”

Mumeen has a lot of kids, and there are many different school destinations involved. She and some of her more grown kids had been sharing one old clunker of a car, and that wasn’t working out so well. The car was constantly overheating.

“It would take me, sometimes, three hours to get home,” said Mumeen. “I’d pull over, let it cool off, put some water in it, drive a little bit, pull over…so this saves our lives tremendously!”

She says she arrived in Chapel Hill from Memphis a few years ago to escape domestic violence. What followed was a three-year battle to get her kids back from her estranged husband. She also suffered a period of homelessness.

“That’s how I met Maggie West,” says Mumeen. “She came to the shelter, told my story, and the UNC students got on top of things. At one point, I lived in a vehicle – me and my children. It takes a long time to get out of homelessness.”

West is the program coordinator for Community Empowerment Fund, which works with people who are either homeless, or at risk of being homeless. The CEF provides assistance with finding employment, housing, and building a savings account.

Student volunteers from UNC and Duke make CEF’s work possible.

West said that that Mumeen’s new car will provide stability for her, going forward.

“It’s going to make a huge difference,” said West. “I would get phone calls from her on almost a daily basis about issues with her car, and how it was preventing her from either getting her kids to school on time, or getting to work on time, or her son getting to his job on time.

“So it’s going to make a really big difference with her ability to sustain her transition out of homelessness over the long term.”

UNC junior Jackson Rand from Durham is a student in Kitchen’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class.

Rand is one of the students that helped raise $7,000 for Mumeen’s car, and one other to be given away soon.

“We did multiple projects,” said Rand. “We provided a service and got our fraternity cook to sell barbecue. So we did that, and got a lot of people to buy tickets.

“We also had people donate things such as TVs. Then we raffled those off by sitting in front of UNC football games, basketball games, things like that.”

Rand is a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity.

Walter Sturdivant, sales consultant and internet sales manager for Crown Honda, said his dealership worked hard to fulfill Kitchen’s request for an affordable, mechanically sound vehicle for Mumeen.

“It’s not always about making profit,” said Sturdivant. “But if you’re going to do business in the community, you need to be a part of the community.”

Mumeen has also been provided with a $250 account to cover car repairs and maintenance.