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.

Starting April 1, 2024, Orange County Living Wage will implement a new application fee to support the staff and infrastructure necessary to maintain and expand our programming.

The fee structure: 
Employers with 0-9 employees: $50
Employers with 10-49 employees: $100
Employers with 50 or more employees: $200

Employers will pay the fee at the time of the application for certification – or at the time of re-certification, which is required every two years to stay in the program. Once an application is submitted, employers will be directed to a payment processing link. Applications will be processed once the non-refundable fee is paid.

If employers become official program sponsors of OCLW, the application fee is waived. Contact debbie@orangecountylivingwage.org to learn more about sponsorship packages.

Note: If re-certification is due between now and June 30, 2024, employers can go ahead and fill out the application by March 31 to re-certify early and avoid the fee. 

All certified employers receive:

  • Certification Bundle: a framed certificate, OCLW decal, car magnet, breakroom poster, and a PDF of certificate to use for marketing and grant purposes
  • Website Bundle: business/organization name added to OCLW online directory of certified employers and the ability to submit unlimited postings to the OCLW job board
  • Marketing Bundle: a marketing toolkit to help with social media and newsletters, a workplace photo shoot with a professional photographer, a foam board or framed poster with an image of and quote from a living wage employee, a listing in the Directory of Employers brochure, an announcement of all new certifications on WCHL, a social media post by OCLW announcing certification or re-certification, a social media post per quarter announcing events, free tabling opportunities at all OCLW fundraising events, free marketing opportunities during International Living Wage Week. For retailers: a free option to be included in the National Living Wage Holiday Buying Guide.
  • Programming Bundle: an invitation to all of OCLW’s employer roundtable networking events and all employer/employee workshops

“Since our inception in 2015, it’s been free to become living wage certified, and we have been proud to certify 371 businesses and organizations over the years,” says OCLW Director Debbie Everly. “As our organization expands – and as we move forward with our strategic plan over the next couple of years – we must reevaluate our model in order to better serve the OCLW community and the community at large.”

Questions about this change? Reach out to info@orangecountylivingwage.org.

Orange County’s living wage has been updated for the new year: $17.65 per hour. Aaron Keck of 97.9 The Hill WCHL and Chapelboro.com chatted with Orange County Living Wage’s Debbie Everly and Allanah Hines about this increase. Listen here.


Chapel Hill, NC, Jan. 4, 2024 – Orange County’s newly updated 2024 living wage for hourly workers is $17.65 an hour, or $16.15 an hour for employers who pay at least half of employees’ health insurance costs. Orange County Living Wage (OCLW) adjusts the living wage annually to keep pace with rising rents. The 2023 living wage was $16.60 an hour, or $15.10 an hour for employers who pay at least half of employees’ health insurance costs.

OCLW determines its living wage by using the widely accepted Universal Living Wage Formula based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standard that no more than 30% of a person’s gross income should be devoted to housing. To calculate the wage, OCLW uses the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in a four-county area including Alamance, Chatham, Durham, and Orange counties.

Since Orange County Living Wage’s voluntary employer certification program began in 2015, nearly 366 employers have certified as paying all full- and part-time employees the living wage. The 264 employers on OCLW’s current roster employ more than 8,500 employees in Orange County. In the past year, 25 new employers were recognized for their commitment to paying a living wage.

“On July 24, 2024, we will mark 15 years since the federal minimum hourly wage has been raised,” says OCLW Director Debbie Everly. “We proudly certify employers in Orange County who pay their workers a living wage. These employers are not only investing in our local economy; they are paying the necessary wage for workers to purchase essential items and live closer to their jobs. Those of us who can live close to where we work may not think about the sacrifices made by those with long commutes – less time with family, less time helping kids with homework, less time to relax, less time and ability to attend teacher conferences, children’s events, and more. Being paid a living wage can lift individuals and families in immeasurable ways.”

When a business or organization certifies as a living wage employer, OCLW calculates the total amount they raised wages to meet the living wage threshold. Since 2015, that total is more than $3 million, with over $225,000 stemming from 2023 wage increases alone – money that is often spent in Orange County.

Learn more about Orange County Living Wage, view postings on the living wage jobs board, or apply to become a certified living wage employer at orangecountylivingwage.org.

Our thanks to 97.9 FM WCHL for spreading the word about our recently certified living wage employers. Have a listen the short clips below to learn more about these businesses and organizations – and please support them as you can!

Elysian Fields Farm

Law Offices of Amos Tyndall

Ballet School of Chapel Hill 

Transplanting Traditions Community Farm

Orange Congregations in Mission

Temporary Wall Systems 

Jury X 

Skylark Music School

Endswell Water Cremation


Me-Gi’s Dog Bakery

Lubbers & Sons Tree Care

Chapel Hill Day Care Center

The Cheese Shop

Emerge Pediatric Therapy 

Carolina Jewelry Appraisers

Franklin Street Yoga Center 

Walk & Wag

Carolina Advocates for Climate, Health, and Equity

The Treeist

Earth Yoga

Voices Together


Fiferum Construction 

Equiti Foods

Alliance for Historic Hillsborough

Humble Umbel Farm

Launch Labs


Wild Flora Flowers

Neal’s Deli

Latino Community Credit Union

State Employees’ Credit Union

EarthCo Landscaping

River Mills Cycles

Rings True

Evergreen Clean

Carrboro Family Pharmacy 

Balanced Bookkeeping 

Carolina Habitats

1. We have many non-profits on our roster, who work tirelessly to improve our community when it comes to housing, hunger, racial justice, and more. Consider making an end-of-year, tax-deductible donation to one or more of them before 2023 comes to a close. Looking to volunteer over the holidays? Check in with our non-profits about their opportunities to lend a hand!

2. The businesses on our roster love selling gift cards – and the friends and family on your holiday shopping list love receiving them, whether it’s to a restaurant, a specialty shop, a brewery, or a florist.

3. Consider our living wage restaurants when planning holiday celebrations and/or ordering party platters. 

4. Say thank you. If you’re out and about and see an Orange County Living Wage decal, express your gratitude to that business or organization. Acknowledge their efforts to create an economy that works for all. Even better, post your acknowledgement to social media so that others can applaud their efforts as well.

5. Donate to Orange County Living WageOver 260 certified living wage employers appear on our roster. They represent roughly 10% of all workers in Orange County. Grow our living wage movement by making a tax-deductible, end-of-year donation to OCLW. Help us host networking events for our living wage employers/employees, maintain our Job Board, fund promotional efforts for our living wage employers, and most of all, raise workers’ wages!

6. Join our Certification Committee! This involves reaching out to local employers, letting them know about our voluntary certification program and answering any questions those employers may have about our application process. Email us to learn more.

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


The Living Wage Network – of which Orange County Living Wage is a member – is proud to present the Living Wage Gift Guide! As you shop for your loved ones this holiday season, you can make a positive impact by purchasing gifts from businesses and organizations that pay their employees a living wage. You can browse through the guide and shop directly on the companies’ websites, or if you happen to live in the area, stop by in person!

All companies in this guide ship across the United States. These really are the gifts that keep on giving.

Local living wage employers featured in the guide include Big Spoon Roasters, Carrboro Coffee Roasters, Hillsborough Yarn Shop, Rumors, Melissa Designer Jewelry, and Burwell School Historic Site.

The Living Wage Network’s mission is to support worker livelihoods by urging employers to pay living wages, certifying and publicly recognizing living wage employers, and promoting living wages as a matter of conscience within our community.

Orange County Living Wage is thrilled to announce that our certified living wage employers have now raised wages by more than $3 million since our non-profit was founded in 2015.

When a business or organization certifies as a living wage employer, OCLW calculates the total amount they raised wages to meet the living wage threshold. This money often remains in Orange County, as employees spend their dollars where they live and work. A large body of research shows that wage increases – particularly for those at the bottom of the income spectrum – enhance community-level economic activity and support local businesses; reduce the amount by which taxpayers subsidize corporations for the low wages they pay; and lessen the pay inequalities for women and people of color that depress overall economic growth.

In other words, the entire community benefits when wages are lifted!