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Chapel Hill residents get to know the students next door

Good Neighbor Initiative volunteers, Cassandra Bennet (far left) and C.J. Click (far right) speak with UNC students Jakob Nielsen (left) and Nataniel Lelental (right).
Good Neighbor Initiative volunteers, Cassandra Bennet (far left) and C.J. Click (far right) speak with UNC students Jakob Nielsen (left) and Nataniel Lelental (right).

During the event, volunteers — including UNC students, Chapel Hill residents, police officers and University staff — split into groups to visit houses and offer advice on how to be a polite, law-abiding neighbor.

Megan Wooley, community sustainability planner for the Town of Chapel Hill, has been volunteering with the initiative for four years.

“What we find is that a lot of students who live in the neighborhoods have just never lived on their own before, so it’s important to remind them that they’re living in a different space ,” Wooley said. “I t’s encouraging them to keep the town’s regulations in mind and, in a lot of cases, letting them know what the regulations are.”

Typical topics of conversation include the town’s four-person occupancy rule, noise ordinances and trash pickup guidelines. This year, some new topics arose, such as parking rules that were released in September, as well as changed rules for recycling collection.

Organized by event leader Aaron Bachenheimer, director of UNC’s Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement, the volunteers spent two hours walking the length of the Northside, Cameron-McCauley, Pine Knolls and Davie Circle neighborhoods, as well as along Pine Bluff Trail.

“We’ve expanded our resources significantly over the years,” said Bachenheimer, who has been with the Good Neighbor Initiative since 2009.

Chapel Hill resident and volunteer Tristan Routh, an attorney for Carolina Student Legal Services, said he volunteered for the first time this year to inform students of their legal rights and duties as residents.

“For people to be good neighbors, it’s especially important for them to know the law,” he said.

Bachenheimer said that in recent years, volunteers have hit about 1,000 houses through the event. Wooley said many neighborhoods have requested that the initiative expand to include them.

Becca Reardon, a UNC student living in the Northside neighborhood, one of the areas volunteers visited, said she lived off campus last year as well.

“I was in an apartment, which makes you feel like it’s only students living around you,” Reardon said. “Here, it’s a weird mosaic of people. We have a little kid living next door, and I’m so used to living only around people my own age.”

One of the event’s first-time volunteers was Faith Thompson, ombudswoman for the town of Chapel Hill.

“I’m hoping I’ll see a light bulb go off in someone’s head, like, ‘Oh, that’s what I can do to be a good neighbor!’” she said.

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