(Above): Foster's Market; GM/Co-owner, Sera Cuti


The Arc of Orange County NC had the pleasure of interviewing the co-owner, and GM, Sera Cuni, of Chapel Hill's powerhouse of local goodies, food, coffee, and small event-hostings: Foster's Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, which sits just a few blocks from the town's renowned Franklin Street. 

The Arc's volunteer/social program, Petals with a Purpose, donates flowers to Foster's Market, so we wanted to interview Sera to ask her some questions with regard to her past experiences working with the Arc, in addition to some information about her background, leading up to Foster's.

Here is the interview:

  • Where are you from, originally? I have lived all over - from to Connecticut, Florida, California, Vermont and Massachusetts.  
  • How did you end up in Chapel Hill? I followed my parents down from Connecticut after getting tired of all the snow
  • How did you come to own Foster's Market? I have worked at Foster's for 9.5 years, and about 2 years ago, Sara Foster offered to sell it to me and my partner. It was a no-brainer; we jumped at the opportunity to own a Chapel Hill landmark.
  • How has it changed your life? It hasn't changed my life at all... except, now, I can help the community more.
  • Where, in your eyes, does Foster's Market fit in to our community? We are a place were all walks of life seem to meet and congregate. We plan on doing more community involvement and helping.
  • How long has The Arc been giving flowers to Foster's through its Petals for a Purpose program? We have probably have been reviving the flowers for a year and half. How did this start? Susan Chandler, the Arc's Director of Volunteer Opportunities, told us about it and we were interested.
  • What impact, if any, has Petals with a Purpose flowers had on you, your impression of The Arc, and your customers? People always ask if the flowers are really free; when we tell them yes, it makes people very happy.We have had people use them for Valentine's Day, hospital visits, and just 'cause they will make someone happy.
  • Anything you'd like to stay to the staff/volunteers/participants who work in the Petals with a Purpose program to help bring these flowers to Foster's each week? We really love the flowers every week. We pick our favorites and hope they go to good homes. We really appreciate them and all that everyone does to get them done and out to people
Thanks so much for the interview, Sera! The Arc of Orange loves having the opportunity to work with Foster's Market, too!
Check out the Foster's Market site, online, here!





June 2014 Volunteer Spotlight: Stacey Yusko, Executive Director of the CH/Carrboro Meals on Wheels



Please help celebrate The Arc's wonderful partnership with Meals on Wheels by supporting the first annual "Dining for Dollars" to benefit Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels.

When? Thursday, June 5, 2014 from 6-9pm, Hickory Tavern in Carrboro!

The evening will include a wonderful dinner menu selection provided by Hickory Tavern, and a silent auction that will offer a golf package for 4 at Pinehurst #8,  a one week stay at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba, beach and mountain home rentals, UNC/Duke basketball tickets, UNC football tickets, a private party at Monkee’s, a Governor’s Club golf package, and more!! Tickets to the event are $30 and can be purchased on the web site.





“The Arc volunteers are not just 'Arc volunteers.' [They] come in to work seamlessly and carry the load; when they aren’t here, I have to get someone to pick up the slack. We depend on them,” says Stacey Yusko, Executive Director of the CH/Carrboro Meals on Wheels.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels mission statement is to “provide a hot nutritious meal and personal visit Monday through Friday to those individuals living in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the surrounding area who are unable to prepare meals for themselves due to illness, disability, or convalescence in order to improve their health, reduce isolation and help them maintain independent living.” Meals on Wheels started in 1976 so it’s been in Chapel Hill since then. There are no rules, guidelines, or trademarks, but rather each program operates independently as fits their community. The majority of the meals are purchased from K&W, but they also receive donations from places like Whole Foods, Panera, and Harris Teeter. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels operates out of Binkley Baptist Church, but is quickly outgrowing their space.

When current director, Stacey Yusko, first started in 2009, they were only delivering about 65 meals a day. Now, with over 150 volunteers, they deliver 140 meals a day on 12 different routes. Here is what they say about their volunteers: “Meals on Wheels would cease to exist without the tireless dedication of our volunteers. These are people who have boundless energy and optimism, many of whom have busy lives, with families, careers and other commitments. But they make time to help. And that makes all the difference.” Over the past decade, several Arc participants have become committed and valuable volunteers of the organization. Yusko speaks about the impact the partnership with The Arc has had on the participants and the community as a whole.


How did you hear about The Arc of Orange County? How does Meals on Wheels partner with The Arc?

It (the partnership) was in place before I got here. One of the Tuesday volunteers has been delivering for at least 10 years. Susan Chandler, The Arc’s Director of Volunteer and Social Opportunities and I started matching people up more a few years ago. As we have grown, we have added more routes. I remember calling Susan and asking her if she had people. When I need volunteers, I know they have some. The Meals on Wheels director used to do everything herself, now the people who come in and do set up has changed the way meals on wheels operates. It takes a massive amount of work off of me and is a much better way for the organization to be. These people are able to handle it and they do it well.

I think it’s good for my volunteers to have The Arc volunteers in here because it breaks down the barriers. Arc participants have a purpose and want to be able to do something positive in the community. We have Arc volunteers from all spectrums and where it used to jolt people to have differences, now nothing is out of the bounds of working. It’s exposing the larger world to a larger population that is more unique and now the larger world is becoming more comfortable with differences.

It goes beyond just the partnership; some of our people have adopted some of their people on a different level, outside the volunteer placement. At Christmas time a group of volunteers contributed to a Christmas gift basket to one of the participants. People have really adopted him. They are not just breaking down barriers, but also inviting them in to the community and the Meals on Wheels community.


What ways do you find this rewarding?

Satisfying that basic human need is very satisfying. We want everyone to have a meal. Knowing you are helping someone stay at home but putting food on the table, I get a charge out of talking to people and feel like we are improving their lives. Working with our volunteers has helped. On a personal level I get good information all the time. Meeting a broader group of people I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I think it’s really nice to see how there are so many people invested in the community.


Do you think that your work with The Arc makes a difference?

I think it’s copacetic; it's a beautiful partnership because it benefits both parts equally. They are relieving a burden for me and its purposeful work and meaningful to them. It's a 50/50. One volunteer has Down syndrome. He knows the clients backwards and forwards and he knows if something is off. He suits the job perfectly because of that. The Arc volunteers are not just “Arc volunteers.” The ones that come in work seamlessly and carry the load and when they aren’t here I have to get someone to pick up the slack. We depend on them.


If you could do one thing to change the world what would it be?

I would do something on a local level. Several people have been displaced from their homes, and if I could change anything in the area, then everyone would have a safe, warm place to live. The rent went up and they can’t do it. They qualify for section 8 vouchers, and some go to homeless shelters. You could not know where you are going to be the next day. We need affordable housing.


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