Chapel Hill: Opinion

Eileen Hannan Ferrell: Give locally, now more than ever

Are you still struggling to either come up with a New Year’s resolution or to commit to the one(s) you made? Fear not – there is still time for you to feel good about yourself and your community in 2015!

We are often encouraged to shop locally, but how about to give locally? Please join me in resolving to feel and do good by donating your time and money to one of the hundreds of registered nonprofit organizations in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.

After 14 years of being led by a volunteer board of directors, Strowd Roses, Inc. charitable foundation recently named me as its first executive director. I have been both overwhelmed by the needs in our community and inspired by our citizens and nonprofits who tirelessly serve, fundraise and advocate on our behalf.

A shining example is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation which this month formally celebrates 30 years as the only independent nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing community support for the local school district.

Through its annual block grant to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, Strowd Roses entrusts the foundation to administer our investment. Together we have positively impacted 3,730 students, family members and staff in the 2014-15 school year through seven school-wide projects, small classroom grants, and workshops.

One example of how just $2,000 can have a multiplying effect is the Bus Beautification project at Carrboro High School. Strowd Roses funding purchased a backpack vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies that are being used in conjunction with the Chapel Hill Transit system, the nonprofit Extraordinary Ventures, the Office for Community Services and students in the System Level Occupational Preparation class at Carrboro High School. Through the creation of a new student business venture, “Jaguar Enterprises Automotive and School Bus Cleaning,” students are learning marketable job skills such as budgeting, scheduling, and professionalism.

“The generous grant has extended beyond both our classroom and the school district,” shared one project developer. “Students recently presented a poster presentation about this project at the Exception Child Conference in Greensboro. Special educators from around the state are being inspired by the project and will be seeking to start similar efforts in their own districts.”

Just as one small grant can have a ripple effect, the individual choice of people like you to give has more power to create positive change than you might realize. According to the Giving USA, individuals remain the greatest source of charitable contributions – not foundations like ours or even corporations – accounting for 72 percent of total giving nationwide. So if you’re wondering whether your contribution will make a difference, it’s important to remember that when it comes to giving, the sum is indeed greater than the parts.

Giving money is not the only way you can impact the community. According to Independent Sector, your volunteerism equates to $21 per hour that a nonprofit would otherwise have to pay someone for the services you provide. That means donating $100 of your money is roughly equivalent to donating five hours of your time. Not to mention the personal growth that volunteerism offers, like meeting new people, learning new skills and forging closer connections to your community.

Either way you resolve to give, be it your time or your money, you can rest assured that it is indeed making a difference in the lives of those around you and the quality of life for everyone who lives here.

Eileen Hannan Ferrell is executive director of Strowd Roses, Inc. To learn about the diversity of nonprofits Strowd Roses supports through its grantmaking ($4.6 million to date) go to or contact