Our first Chili Cook-Off on April 28 was truly a community collaboration and a big win for fair wages.

We heard over and over how each chili was amazing – all had incredible flavor and the offerings represented quite a variety.

Pro contestants: Kelby Grubbs – Pantana Bob’s; Alexis Lawson – Chef Lex; Vimala Rajendran – Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe; and Mark Overbay – Big Spoon Roasters.

Amateur contestants: Craig Romaine; Laura Malinchock (representing PORCH); Mike Madden; and Dana Hanson.

Congratulations to our winners!
Pro People’s Choice: Chef Lex
Pro Judge’s Choice: Big Spoon Roasters
Amateur People’s Choice: Dana Hanson
Amateur Judge’s Choice: Dana Hanson

Our judges were: Paxson Wojcik, Rob Landry, and Duwe Farris from the UNC Men’s Basketball Team; Carrie Brogren – founder of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Foodie Group, Jason Merrill – Carrboro Town Council Member; and our very own, Allanah Hines – Chief Culture, Engagement, and Impact Officer at Weaver Street Market and OCLW Board Member and Vice Chair.


Thank you to our sponsors – all are certified living wage employers:

Gold Sponsors: Bonneville ElectricBeer Study Shop & Drink

Silver Sponsor: Weaver Street Market

Bronze Sponsors: Carolina Jewelry AppraisersFranklin Street Yoga CenterChapel Hill Children & Adolescents’ Clinic

Thank you to the employers who came out and set up a table to get to know our guests: Weaver Street MarketLatino Community Credit UnionPORCHCedar Grove Law,

Generous employers who offered goods and services for our incredible raffle. Donations were made by: RumorsBelltree Cocktail ClubStarfish Bakery, Breakaway CafeCedar Grove Law, Vimala’s Curryblossom CafeOpen Eye CafeCarolina Jewelry AppraisersFranklin Street Yoga CenterTen Mothers FarmUniversity of North Carolina PressWeaver Street MarketFRANK Gallery

The Local Reporter offered this thorough preview of our event.

OCLW has talented communications folks who work with us. Andrea Cash is our Communications Coordinator and was integral in getting the word out about our event. Tom Simon donates his time and talents throughout the year taking amazing photos of our employers, their employees, and our events.

Volunteers are key to the success of any non-profit organization or event. We couldn’t have done this without the help of dedicated OCLW volunteers Aaron Van Son, Brian Crawford, and Madison Mignola. A special thank you to our event volunteers Craig Romaine, Meghan Kuder, and Brenna Kuder (of Cedar Grove Law).

OCLW’s incredible Board of Directors and volunteers made the event possible. Susan Romaine, Allanah Hines, Megan Overbay, Cosby Dudley, and Susan Attermeier were integral from set up to clean up. Jason Nunoo, Victoria Freeman, and Itza Salazar weren’t able to join us but were with us in spirit.

Thank you to certified living wage employers – Town of Carrboro and the Carrboro Farmers Market – for the perfect space to host the event. Thank you to Charles Harrington, Carl Freeman, Kristen Benoit, and especially Dianah L Alston-Sanders and Lt. James L Walker for being so easy to work with in planning this – plus Officers Joe Thomas and Erasmo Velazquez for working our event on their days off.

Thanks to Allanah Hines, Megan Overbay, Susan Romaine, Brian Crawford, Victoria Freeman, and Debbie Horowitz for contributing “bake sale” items.

Steel String Brewery served beer that paired perfectly with chili. And a special thanks to Cruel Country for performing.

Love Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe or always wanted to try it? Here’s your chance! Vimala has generously donated three meals for a silent auction to benefit OCLW! More information and make your bids HERE. Bidding closes Friday, May 17, 2024 at 5 pm.

We want your feedback! What did you like? What could we improve for next year? Please take a few moments to offer your feedback.  Fill out the form, and we’ll enter you to win a $25 gift card to Open Eye Cafe AND a Chili Cook-Off or OCLW T-shirt – your choice. You can also contact Debbie Everly at debbie@orangecountylivingwage.org to purchase either t-shirt.

A huge thanks to all who attended! Save the date for our fall fundraiser – our second annual Benefit Concert for Living Wages – on Labor Day at Pluck Farm.

At Orange County Living Wage, we are committed to supporting certified living wage businesses and organizations by offering resources and assistance that may not be readily available. We are dedicated to understanding the specific needs and challenges of the local economy, offering personalized support and resources to address your concerns.

Through workshops, networking events, and toolkits, we empower living wage employers to create positive change within your organizations and communities. By leveraging our collective knowledge and resources, we can make a meaningful impact on the lives of employees and the success of all businesses across Orange County.

We look forward to expanding what we can offer you and your employees. Let us know what we can provide to ensure your business/organization and workers thrive.

At Orange County Living Wage, we believe that every business, regardless of size, has the potential to make a difference. Together, we can build a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

We encourage you and your employees to sign up for these upcoming OCLW events:

OCLW Employee Workshop: May 14, 2024, 6:30 pm 
Join us for an evening of Financial Literacy led by William M. Fisher, Community Impact Officer at Coastal Credit Union.

Are you tired of feeling like your paycheck disappears before the month even begins? Do you dream of a future where financial stress is a thing of the past? You’re not alone.

In today’s challenging economic climate, managing money wisely is more important than ever. That’s why we’re here to provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to take control of your finances and build a brighter future for yourself and your loved ones.

Throughout this workshop, we’ll explore practical strategies for stretching your paycheck further, creating a budget that works for you, and finding opportunities to save and invest, no matter how small your income may be. We’ll also discuss understanding credit, navigating financial institutions, and planning for unexpected expenses.

Our goal is to empower you with the skills and confidence to make informed financial decisions, even on a tight budget. Together, we’ll break down barriers and pave the way toward a more secure financial future for you and your family.

OCLW Employer Workshop: August 13, 2024, 6:30 pm
Are you looking to take your personal financial management skills to the next level? Our tailored Financial Literacy Workshops offer a unique opportunity for employers like yourself to enhance your understanding of key financial principles and strategies, empowering you to make informed decisions both in your professional and personal life.

In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to navigate complex financial landscapes is more crucial than ever. Whether you’re aiming to optimize your personal investments, plan for retirement, or simply gain a better understanding of managing your finances, our workshops are designed to provide you with practical tools and insights to achieve your goals.

During our workshops, you’ll delve into a range of topics, including budgeting, saving, investing, understanding credit, and planning for the future. Our expert facilitator will guide you through interactive sessions tailored to your specific needs and objectives, ensuring that you come away with actionable strategies to drive your financial success.

By investing in your own financial literacy, you’ll not only enhance your personal financial well-being but also set an example of financial leadership within your organization. Moreover, the skills and knowledge you gain will directly benefit your company, enabling you to make sound financial decisions that drive growth and prosperity.

Please spread the word to your employees about the May 14 event.

Please contact debbie@orangecountylivingwage.org for more information about these events and to learn about sponsorship opportunities.

Get ready to fire up your taste buds! In the spirit of camaraderie and culinary excellence, the Orange County Living Wage’s Chili Cook-Off fundraiser invites participants and attendees alike to savor a diverse array of tantalizing chili recipes crafted by talented cooks from across the community. Whether you’re a seasoned chili aficionado or simply looking to support a worthy cause, this event promises a delightful day filled with warmth, flavor, and the opportunity to make a meaningful difference.

WHEN: Sunday, April 28, noon to 3 pm
WHERE: Carrboro Town Commons (301 West Main St., Carrboro)
FEATURING: Live music by Country Cruel, a bake sale, and beer from Steel String Brewery (a living wage employer!)
JUDGES: Carrie Brogren, founder of Chapel Hill Carrboro Foodies; Paxson Wojcik, Rob Landry, and Duwe Farris, UNC men’s basketball players; Jason Merrill of Carrboro Town Council

We will have a Pro division for the chef who gets paid to prepare food for others at restaurants, camps, universities, corporate kitchens, etc. We are excited to announce that our Pro participants include Vimala Rajendran of Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe; Mark Overbay from Big Spoon Roasters; Alexis Lawson, also known as Chef Lex; and Kelby Grubbs of Pantana Bob’s

An Amateur division is for the talented home cook.

Get more information and sign up to enter the competition.

Thank you to our sponsors: Beer Study, Bonneville Electric, Carolina Jewelry Appraisers, Chapel Hill Children and Adolescents’ Clinic, Franklin Street Yoga Center, Weaver Street Market. 

Would you rather taste than prepare the food? Buy tickets and join us as an attendee. Tickets range from $10 to $50.

We also need volunteers to complete various tasks during the event and bakers willing to donate some goods.

Living Wage Employers: Want to sponsor, table at the event, or provide items for our raffle? We’d love to have your participation! Please contact debbie@orangecountylivingwage.org.

On Labor Day afternoon (Sept. 4 from 2 to 6 p.m.), we’re hosting a concert fundraiser at the beautiful Pluck Farm!

This will be fun for the whole family: Enjoy games, an 18-hole disc golf course, gorgeous scenery, and  delicious cuisine from food trucks. The following food trucks will be on site: Blue Window (Mediterranean fare), Larine’s Kitchen (fried fish, sandwiches, fries), and Alsies (ice cream).


Admission is free, and no RSVP is required. 10% of Steel String purchases will support OCLW’s mission. Donations to Orange County Living Wage are encouraged – help us continue to lift wages for the entire community!

The concert will feature performances by Blue Cactus, Mellow Swells, and Titan and Crew (East Chapel Hill High’s jazz band).

This will be a great occasion to celebrate workers and remind our community why we must keep fighting for an economy that works for all.



Kathleen Shapley-Quinn, MD and Todd Shapley-Quinn, MD
(Kathleen is founder of recently certified living wage employer Carolina Advocates for Climate, Health, and Equity

To commemorate Labor Day, WCHL’s Aaron Keck hosted a panel discussion featuring local workers whose employers are certified with us. Tammy Price from Chapel Hill Transit, Alaina Plauche from Meantime Coffee, and Ben Sellers from Ten Mothers Farm reflected on what it means to be paid a living wage. OCLW’s Susan Romaine and Andrea Cash spoke about our organization’s history and mission. Listen to the audio clips via WCHL’s website. 

And don’t forget to take part in our social media campaign this Labor Day weekend.  In a separate segment, Aaron and his husband Brad talked about their date night plans that will include stops at living wage employers like Belltree, Lantern, Epilogue, and more.

Carrboro Farmers’ Market

Between Sept. 1 and Labor Day on Sept. 5, we encourage you to show some love for Orange County’s living wage employers! Thank them for helping to create a more just and sustainable local economy that works for all! Check out our directory and make plans to spend some of your dollars with one or more businesses/organizations on our roster. Then, post to social media using our hashtag – #OrangeCountyNCLivingWage – between Sept. 1 and Sept. 5. And be sure to tag Orange County Living Wage and the employer you’re featuring!

A bit of background: While the federal minimum wage hasn’t budged from $7.25 per hour in more than 13 years, Orange County

Living Wage’s 2022 living wage is $15.85 per hour, or $14.35 per hour if the employer pays at least half the cost of health insurance. We commend the approximately 250 living wage employers currently on our roster – more than 8,500 employees work for them.

Since our nonprofit was founded in 2015, OCLW living wage employers have collectively raised wages by $2.7 million – money that is often spent right here in our backyard!

Thank you for showing your appreciation for these positive change makers in our local economy!

Meantime Coffee


Rebecca Scothorn (Market Ambassador), Nandini Singh (UNC MPH Practicum Student), Maggie Funkhouser (Market Manager), Laura Perez (Market Assistant Manager). Photo by Tom Simon.


Kellogg’s Breakfast, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, and Super Sweet 100. On Saturday, July 9, from 8:30 a.m. and until noon, these tomato varieties and dozens more will be on full display during the Carrboro Farmers’ Market Tomato Day. The annual event returns to Carrboro Town Commons for the first time since 2019, after pausing for safety reasons during the pandemic.

Tomato Day draws upward of 6,000 people, making it the Market’s biggest day of the year.

“Tomatoes are a big deal around here,” says Maggie Funkhouser, the Market’s manager, with a laugh. “They’re big enough for us to have a day dedicated to them.”

This year, in addition to the traditional tastings, visitors can taste tomato flights to sample the many varieties. The event will also feature live music, recipes, and special merchandise like Tomato Day shirts and posters. Ricky Moore of Durham’s Saltbox Seafood Joint – who  won the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast just a few weeks ago – will serve tasting portions of chilled yellow tomato soup with summer garden garnishes. “This is sort a homecoming for me,” he recently posted on social media, “because when I move here 14 years [ago] I worked in Carrboro and I spent a lot of time at the market and bonded with many of the farmers during that time.”

The farmers not only sell their tomatoes but share their knowledge and recommendations with customers, whether they have a recipe in mind or are searching for inspiration.

“It’s really beautiful in that way,” says Maggie. “It’s a wonderful chance to learn about this special fruit, special vegetable, and the farmers that just adore it and really put a lot of love into growing them every year.”

The farmer-customer relationship sets Carrboro Farmers’ Market apart, even on normal market days. Owners must be present during market hours for a certain number of weeks, giving customers a great sense of respect and trust when it comes to the products and where they come from, Maggie says.

The Market, one of the oldest and largest in North Carolina, is thrilled to be one of the 315 (and counting) certified living wage employers in Orange County – their certification became official last month. 

“It’s a point of pride to be able to offer it, but it also is an expression of gratitude,” says Maggie. “It’s a way to appreciate staff members who work really hard and are really good at what they do.”

She and two other part-time staff members work as a team and rely on support from interns, students, the Market’s Board, volunteers, and the community at large.

“We have a really small team, but we do really big things, and we all wear a lot of hats,” she says. Managing the market, communicating with vendors, posting to social media, and writing grants – they do it all.

Maggie learned about the Orange County Living Wage certification program through living wage employers in the community – market vendors, restaurants, and others, including the Town of Carrboro.

“We have a really wonderful relationship [with the Town of Carrboro], and there’s a lot of mutual support,” she says. “Certainly, them being living wage certified is a hugely impactful thing, and it affected me.”

Two of the Market’s vendors are living wage certified – Chapel Hill Creamery and Short Winter Soups.

Flo Hawley of Chapel Hill Creamery. Photo by Tom Simon.

Flo Hawley, owner of Chapel Hill Creamery, wants her employees to be happy. “We want to be fair. We know that things in this area are good for sales, but it’s also expensive to live here, and housing is always an issue,” she says.

“[A living wage] means I can hold down just one job,” says Allana Frost, who works for Short Winter Soups. “I live with a partner, and together we can afford a mortgage and food and take care of ourselves.”

A living wage helps recruit and retain employees during a time when staffing seems to be difficult for everyone, says Flo. She believes her employees stick around because they enjoy local food and working with their hands.

Alanna Frost, kitchen manager at Short Winter Soups, helps customers at a recent market. Photo by Tom Simon.

The importance of local food came into clear view in the last few years, when the pandemic exposed a fragile food system and supply chain, Maggie says.

“We all acknowledge that we need to work together towards a stronger, more resilient local food system,” she says.

Shoppers found empty shelves at grocery stores, but the Carrboro Farmers’ Market could offer those products every single week, Maggie says.

“There’s a real symbiosis in Carrboro,” she says. “We have such a wonderful robust farmers’ market, and we have restaurants that are really interested in featuring local food.”