Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Communities Connect Through Good Business, Willing Volunteers and Loving Hearts

Businesses Connecting Hearts

The connection between Chapel Hill and Burma refugees continues to strengthen as local businesses and organizations help make life better for this oppressed group of people, known as the Karen. For more than 50 years, conflict between Burma’s repressive ruling military regime, political opponents and ethnic groups has displaced 3.5 million-plus Karen. In the absence of political progress, there is much we can do to help these and other ethnic groups in Burma.

For example, Vacuum Cleaner Hospital recently donated four vacuum cleaners to Burma refugee families who relocated to the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, offering further proof that Burma refugees can count on their surrounding community to help them adjust to their new home and life.

Ten middle-school aged children from Burma spent the past year studying together at Chapel Hill High School, learning not only about life in the United States, but also about how they can use art to express their emotions and experiences. The North Carolina Art Therapy Institute, a Durham-based non-profit, offered these children—who once suffered under the hands of Burmese oppressors—an opportunity to express themselves through art in ways they are unable to using words.

The students’ art will be displayed in a show titled “Journeys to a Different Landscape,” now on exhibit at University Mall through June 14 in the former Avenues’ space across from the Print Shop. The North Carolina Art Therapy Institute hosted an opening reception for this exhibit June 7. Learn more about this endearing cause here.

Volunteers Connecting Donations

Just as the Burma refugees need giving hearts and helping hands, so do scores of other charitable foundations. In addition to sponsoring New Resident Solutions “Equinomics” page, Turning Point Gallery’s co-owner Jerri Meldrum volunteers her time to clean stalls and groom rescued horses. She will also help coordinate an Equine Exchange Sept. 3-7. You can participate by checking your barns or your friends’ barns for equine items you no longer need and can donate to the cause. Clean, gently used tack of all types—bridles, blankets, saddles, shoes, boots, books, hats, helmets and more—are needed for this event. Contact Jerri at jerrie@harmonyfineart.com for more information.

Find additional sources of “equinomics” on Triangle TRACKS’ horseback riding page.

Citizens Connecting Art

Chapel Hill/Carrboro’s 2ndFriday ArtWalk, now in its 9th year, features numerous expressions of art displayed by more than 20 participating galleries. During this month’s celebration on June 12 from 6 to 9 p.m., Turning Point Gallery and Tyndall Galleries will display works of fine art and animation. Benjamin Vineyards and Winery will offer wine tastings in each gallery and wine by the glass at their center court kiosk. There will even be a strolling musician and complimentary flowers for the ladies on hand. Learn more about the 2ndFriday ArtWalk here.

Turning Point Gallery’s June show, “East Meets West,” will display 10 new original paintings from Amsterdam’s Chinese painter Wilfred, who blends realism with abstract art. Wilfred learned traditional Chinese painting from his father as a child growing up in China. Later, he traveled the world exploring new ideas for his acrylic paintings, and now he resides and works in Amsterdam. His paintings on display at Turning Point Gallery will feature peaceful landscapes, sophisticated florals, unique boat scenes and majestic cityscapes. Come enjoy the seamless blend of cultures and subjects Wilfred shares through his work. The show begins June 9 and runs through the end of the month. Learn more here.

Chapel Hill and the surrounding community warmly received University Mall’s Scrapel Hill Art competition this past spring, which features works by local artists created of recycled and non-recyclable materials. The art will remain on display through June 30 at University Mall. Learn more here.

Consumers Connecting Businesses

Business success stories are hard to come by during troubling economic times, but Chapel Hill’s Carolina Closets Plus found a way to increase sales by 50 percent.

“Our sales to the Raleigh market have increased over 50 percent due to our new showroom opening at 5215 Capital Boulevard,” says owner Mike Hoffer. “Our customers have commented on how convenient it is to have two showrooms to choose from. Some of our Raleigh customers will use the Chapel Hill showroom because they work over here, and some of our Chapel Hill customers will use the Raleigh showroom. It’s really been a great fit for our service area.”

Carolina Closets Plus features fully designed closets in both locations as well as a full showroom of home technology products from America In Home, which Hoffer owns with partner Bruce Bullings. “It’s a unique concept because we’ve combined a lot of the things that a new homeowner, or a homeowner that’s remodeling, needs. We can offer everything from the network wiring to the Beam central vacuum system to the complete home audio package to the security system—in addition to a complete storage solution.”

Carolina Closets Plus also connects the surrounding community through local swimming groups. Hoffer, head of all North Carolina swimming officials, says there has been a spike in the number of swimmers here due to last summer’s Olympic games. “We have over 7,500 swimmers, coaches and volunteers in North Carolina,” Hoffer says. “That’s a huge number of people that interested in one of the best forms of lifelong exercise there is.” Learn more here.

Social Networks Connecting Parents

Triangle TRACKS links to nearly 2,000 resources for local children, from art lessons to youth sports to birthday party venues. Beyond the site’s resourceful links, Triangle TRACKS also connects parents. Blog posts, Twitter Tweets and email messages keep visitors and members up to date on the latest local events for kids and news about trends, books, performing arts offerings, children’s movies, museum exhibits and more. Log on to www.triangletracks.com to make connections that will enrich and improve life for your kids.

Keep connecting with us each month to stay up to date on how our community is working to make life better for new residents of Chapel Hill—whether they hail from Burma, or the county next door.