This past October, we enjoyed a fund- and friend-raiser for the new “tiny-plex” in the heart of Northside. Developed in partnership with Pee Wee Homes and Orange Habitat, the ingenious duo of tiny homes (350 square feet each) will be permanently affordable at $250/month. We celebrated with tiny toasts, tiny tours, and tiny cups of banana pudding served by tiny people (a passle of Northside kids!). As always, we relied on the generosity of student service partners to support the event. Here, two of our Jackson Center service partners from UNC, Joyce and Xzavian, reflect on their not-so-tiny experience:
Neighbors and guests at Tiny Home Benefit October 13, 2017
Reflection by Joyce Yao
The first thing I saw as I walked up to 601 Craig Street on an evening with remarkably, seasonally-appropriate weather—Chapel Hill has been keeping us on our toes—was the tiny food: tiny sliders, tiny drinks, tiny desserts, tiny everything! The second was a bustling, excited crowd of people standing around the Tiny Home. It was clear that this was a tight-knit community of people who engaged with each other often through various town efforts for community advocacy. Ms. Yvonne greeted every visitor with the same warmth and energy that she employs at the Jackson Center front desk, charming everyone who stopped by the front table to learn more about Pee Wee Homes and keeping the liveliness up throughout the celebration. There were tours of the Tiny House coupled with music and line dancing, with a steady in-and-out flow of locals as the night went on.
It was especially encouraging to see the success in creating spaces like this for community members, town council people, and students to come together and have conversations over tiny red solo cups of banana pudding, breaking down the walls between campus, local government, and long-time residents of Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
While I was sad that the guest of honor (Pee Wee) couldn’t attend, I still had a wonderful time meeting fellow Chapel Hillians, their dogs, and the lovely Jackson Center volunteers who all came out to show their support for grassroots affordable housing movements and to celebrate the wonderful work of organizations like Pee Wee Homes. I am thankful for these reminders of the strong connections between the community and the Jackson Center, CEF, and other impactful nonprofits in the Chapel Hill area that are working to preserve and uplift the value of a community of compassion and solidarity.
Joyce Yao (left) makes tiny welcome cards at check-in table with Jackson Center Administrative Associate Yvonne Cleaveland (right).
Reflection by Xzavian Carter
Each of my experiences volunteering at The Jackson Center have been filled with laughs, love, and empowerment, all through genuine conversations and interactions. Since my first shift that I worked at Heavenly Groceries, I knew just from those initial conversations with the ladies that The Jackson Center was a great place to be if I wanted to make a difference in the community and have fun while doing so. However, I never got to see or experience the Northside community in its entirety until I worked the Tiny Home Benefit event. I really enjoyed setting up for the event. In the beginning, admittedly, it was a bit stressful racing against the clock to get everything done in preparation for the event. We ran into some minor roadblocks during the setup but that’s what made it all even more worthwhile in the end. Seeing everyone come to the event and not only enjoy themselves and the home, but enjoying each other and the experience at large provided a great deal of satisfaction and relief. The people whom I met throughout the duration of the event provided me with a great deal of insight on the community and some of their feelings in terms of the things that they have experienced over time. I also had meaningful conversations with my peers and residents of the community about life, passions, experiences, goals, etc. I learned a lot but I also laughed and danced a lot. The residents of the Northside community know how to make “outsiders” feel welcome and ensure that we have a great time while serving the community. All in all, this was a truly rewarding experience and the memories will stick with me forever.
Xzavian Carter (left) chats with Northside Neighbors Leah Balkoski and Charlie Norwood