Two Neighborhood Coordinators Join Forces in Kent Woodlands and Cobble Ridge
PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro is nearly 14 years old, which means some neighborhoods have relied on multiple Neighborhood Coordinators as time has passed.
More than 125 Neighborhood Coordinators organize monthly food collections for a neighborhood or street. They are responsible for spreading the word about the designated day for the monthly food drives, picking up donations from nearby porches, and getting the non-perishable bags of food to a central location.
Kent Woodlands and Cobble Ridge – two connected neighborhoods of about 50 homes each near Southern Village – hadn’t had a Neighborhood Coordinator in several years. Beth Duncan, a fairly recent empty nester with one son in college and one in the Army, was looking for a volunteer role with flexible hours. Her two children had volunteered with PORCH in high school, and a good friend is a regular volunteer. Beth reached out to the PORCH team and was quickly set up for success – materials were dropped at her door, and she began collecting food from her neighbors this fall.
“When [the previous Neighborhood Coordinator] heard I was going to do it, she emailed and was really supportive, telling me what a great opportunity it is,” Beth says. “She is now a food donor.”
Beth began by collecting non-perishable items in her neighborhood of Kent Woodlands. She wanted to expand and shared the idea with Liz Schaller, who is in Beth’s book club and lives in the adjacent Cobble Ridge.
Liz, too, is a new empty nester, with a son and daughter in college. She works in marketing from her home and was receptive to joining Beth in her efforts, beginning in December.
“It’s such a great organization and such a good mission,” Liz says. “It’s a great opportunity for people who have a full-time job. You can manage it while working 40-plus hours a week.”
Liz and Beth used some printed materials to spread the word to their neighbors but found that emailing garnered the highest response rate. Only a few months into this endeavor, they have about 20 regular donors and are filling up Liz’s SUV each month as they drive around to collect goods on their designated day.
Any donation is appreciated, of course, but the pair is finding that they have some generous neighbors, with some contributing up to six grocery bags per household.
“It’s an easy way to help,” Liz says. “While at the grocery store, you can pick up a few extra things and set them aside. … Food insecurity is such a huge issue. And the food is going to support people in our community, which Is very important.”
Their partnership is a real highlight of their experience so far. “It’s great to have someone else to ask: ‘What do you think of this idea? What do you think of that idea?’” Beth says. “It’s sort of a social activity. It’s fun.” Plus, if one person needs to travel during a collection period, the other partner can step in.
Beth – an allergist immunologist who now works in the pharmaceutical industry leading clinical trials related to asthma and COPD – loves that her Neighborhood Coordinator responsibilities don’t make her feel overextended. “I can do this on the weekends,” she says.
Adds Liz, who moved to Chapel Hill from the Boston area seven years ago: “It’s a great way to be involved and give back, but it’s very manageable from a time perspective. … I was very impressed with all of the information and materials provided by PORCH. It’s really seamless.” As a bonus? When the women transport the groceries to PORCH’s food sort location, they don’t even have to get out of the car; volunteers quickly unload everything as soon as they park.
Along with her husband, Beth also volunteers occasionally with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, while Liz has previously given her time to the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill and the Orange County Animal Shelter.
Beth and her family have lived in their home for more than 20 years, but she says collecting food for PORCH has allowed her to meet some families who have moved in recently. “The gratitude from them to me has been something we’ve almost laughed about,” she says. “They are saying, ‘thank you so much’ as I collect. And I’m going, ‘no, no, thank you!’”
We are currently seeking Neighborhood Coordinators in communities all around Chapel Hill and Carrboro. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Neighborhood Coordinator, would you or someone you know want to help fill this role? This is a great leadership opportunity for students! Prospective NCs can reach out to us at email@example.com. You can pass along the link to our Neighborhood Coordinator information page, which gets into the nuts and bolts of what NCs do; it includes this very handy video.