Chapel Hill: Opinion

August 5, 2014

Roses and raspberries, Aug. 6

Roses from reader Bill Palmer to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Sunrise Rotary Club for their recently completed duck race fundraiser.

Roses from reader Bill Palmer to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Sunrise Rotary Club for their recently completed duck race fundraiser.

The event, which is held annually at West Point on the Eno Park, raised over $23,000, every penny of which goes to support the club’s community and international projects.

In the past year, Sunrise Rotary has used duck race proceeds to help underwrite local student exchange trips to other countries, dinners for guests at the Chapel Hill Ronald McDonald House, the Burmese refugee garden, assistance to 2013 Orange County flood victims, collaboration with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club on that club’s “teachers’ store,” clean water projects in India and Latin America, literacy in Guatemala, and about 30 more benevolences at home and around the world.

Since its inception in 2004, the Sunrise Rotary Club duck race has raised nearly $250,000 for projects like these, and many others.

Roses from the town of Hillsborough to 2014 Preservation Champion Award winners Aran Construction owner Howard Staab, his business partner Jim Tomberg, a former Duke math lecturer, and builder Rony Dominguez.

The town recently honored the trio for saving houses that seemed beyond repair and for preserving the unique qualities of historic buildings through appropriate methods and materials. (Are you listening, Francis Henry?) They restored the houses at 408 Calvin St. and 409 W. King St.

The original Calvin Street house dates to 1921 and had been vacant for many years. The Historic District Commission twice had approved the house for demolition. In 2012, Staab and Tomberg bought the property, seeing the potential in it. They remodeled the house using historically appropriate materials. Artificial siding was removed, structural elements were replaced, wood weatherboards and windows were repaired and replaced, a modern metal roof was installed, and diamond vents in the gable were rebuilt. The renovated house was sold to new Hillsborough resident Todd Stabley.

The King Street house dates to 1850 and is the oldest house on its block. It also had been vacant and deteriorating for many years. Staab and Tomberg bought the property in 2013 and restored it with Dominguez doing much of the work. They matched original materials, restoring windows, and retaining as much original fabric as possible. The project received approval for the state historic tax credits, which requires state approval of the interior work’s appropriateness. Tomberg and his wife, Pam Groben, now live in the house.

Roses from reader AnneMarie Fassler to Rhonda Franklin and Jane Miller of PACE Academy.

“In spite of a decision by the state Board of Education to close the school Rhonda and Jane took a stand and fought back, successfully securing the charter renewal they so rightfully deserved,” Fassler writes. “They are both an inspiration and a shining example to their students of strength, hard work and determination. Well done!”

Roses from the Augustine Literacy Project to Northside Elementary School in Chapel Hill. Northside welcomed 31 tutor trainees and ALP coaches and staff for 5 practicum days in July. Northside staff along with staff from Estes Hills Elementary and Sewall Elementary expertly rearranged the summer school schedule in order to provide students who were struggling with literacy skills to be matched with tutors for practicum lessons. The supervised practicum experience is invaluable for the tutor trainees and their students.

Roses also to the Augustine Literacy Project celebrating this year 20 years of improving the reading, writing and spelling abilities of low-income children and teens who struggle with literacy skills. ALP trains and supports volunteer tutors who provide free 1-to-1 literacy instruction. Locally, tutors currently serve in 127 schools and after school programs in five area school systems. For more information, go to

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