Red, decorated heart cutouts hung from the ceiling at the headquarters for TABLE, a nonprofit hunger-relief organization based in Carrboro. Picked over cookies sat on the front table, left over from a celebration early last week.
The scene resembled an elementary school Valentine’s Day party—minus the shelves stocked with non-perishable goods ranging from Campbell’s soup to Welch’s grape jelly.
But the charity, which provides emergency food aid to hungry children in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, had not been observing the famed February holiday, Executive Director Ashton Tippins said.
Instead, TABLE had hosted an open house to celebrate a smaller-scale occasion, one without greeting cards or candy hearts: For the Love of Carrboro Month.
The town’s Board of Aldermen gave February this title in 2012 after Carrboro was one of the finalists for the BBC television show, “Lovetown, USA,” Mayor Lydia Lavelle said.
Lavelle said this was the perfect opportunity to designate “For the Love of Carrboro” Month because after the town’s run for “Lovetown, USA,” residents felt an extra sense of community spirit. It also serves as a nice bridge between the holiday season and the spring, she added.
Board of Aldermen member Randee Haven-O’Donnell said celebrating Carrboro during this time of year helps pull people out from “under the weather, literally,” referring to the snowstorm earlier this month.
“To have an uplifting spirit of togetherness and community is a really good thing to have at this time of year,” Haven-O’Donnell said, who admits that she has “a long-standing love affair” with Carrboro that reaches far beyond February.
But besides the good timing and community spirit generated by the month-long event, “just creating this event is a real Carrboro thing,” she said. “We evolve and organically grow into things that express ourselves and express our values.”
Those values, Lavelle says, which range from protecting the environment to supporting local businesses, especially manifest throughout February. Select Carrboro businesses and restaurants are currently offering specials, encouraging residents to shop and eat locally.
One business offering discounts is DSI Comedy Theater, said owner and Executive Producer Zach Ward. Along with the staff of DSI and the NC Comedy Arts Festival, Ward has worked to “support the town in its efforts to promote the local business community.”
“We have a community that deserves to be celebrated,” he said.
Haven-O’Donnell, who moved to Carrboro from New York City 35 years ago, credits this community atmosphere to the “keen sense of place and hometown” felt by all of the town’s residents, who, she says, seem to share similar thoughts about what makes Carrboro a great, unique place to live.
During a recent rebranding exercise, Carrboro officials canvassed a wide spectrum of the community asking what comes to mind when they think of Carrboro, and from this exercise the town adopted a new logo, “Feel Free,” Lavelle said.
“It’s a place where you can be yourself; it’s a place where you can express yourself; it’s a place where everyone’s welcome,” Lavelle said, adding that the unusual, quirky town boasts active participation on an official as well as unofficial scale.
For Ward, it’s the possibilities that make Carrboro unique—that make Carrboro stand out as a community:
“Anything could happen—and it does.”
Written by: Ellen Werner
Edited by: Ashton Sommerville
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