Community Highlight: The Community Empowerment Fund
Duke Chapel fosters connections with the wider Durham community by partnering in ministry with local churches and nonprofits, as well as nurturing relationships across social, cultural, and political divisions. This Community Highlight focuses on one of the Chapel’s community partners, the Durham-based Community Empowerment Fund.
The Chapel partners with the nonprofit Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in its work on the front lines of housing and economic justice in Durham.
CEF volunteer advocates work one-on-one with the organization’s members to secure housing and build financial security, as well as to implement innovative solutions and advocacy around systemic gaps. Last year, 147 CEF members secured homes and 118 secured income. In July, CEF began working with the City of Durham on a new initiative to engage landlords in efforts to end homelessness. And this fall, CEF celebrates its ten-year anniversary.
Pictured above are CEF member Regina and CEF advocate JV, a Duke graduate. They worked together for Regina to build savings, sustain housing, and build her career, through which she now creates job opportunities for individual parents who have a history of substance abuse or convictions.
"While I was connected with CEF, I was also able to take time not only to let my body heal but to let my family heal,” Regina says. “And through that, I gained a career that I love to death—or love to life!"
The Chapel’s relationship with CEF has a number of dimensions. Through the generosity of individual donors, the Chapel supports CEF in providing direct financial assistance to people transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. A number of Chapel Scholar students, including Liddy Grantland, T ’20, and Jonathan Osei, T ’18, have interned with CEF. While in graduate school, Chapel Community Minister Rev. Breana van Velzen also interned at the organization. In 2017, the Chapel recognized CEF leadership team member Donna Carrington with its Humanitarian Service Award. And, Janet Xiao, T’ 12, MTS’ 12, also a CEF leadership team member, is a former Chapel Scholar and PathWays Fellow.