For those of us who call Orange County home – and there are a lot of us, from natives and transplants to students and retirees – it’s time to take stock of how much our community has done for us and to think about how we can give back during this critical economic recession.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Cedar Grove, Efland, all of Orange County—like the rest of the world – is hurting now. Let’s start the healing and the helping where we can, in our own backyards.

In big ways and small, we can help rebuild our communities while staying safe and protecting our loved ones, in no small part thanks to Orange County leaders for the policies they’ve set forth reminding us all of the Three W’s: Wear a mask, Wash your hands, and Wait six feet apart.

We’ve been through a lot together. For nearly 270 years, Orange County has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, happier, and more fulfilled lives. Hardships, once endured, can be transformative.

We’ve made it through tough times before. This is just another one. The question is, what will this comeback look like? How can we help sustain the economy?

There is no simple answer of course, but from our perch at the Visitors Center, here are a few simple ideas. Pick one or two. You won’t regret it.

Sample area restaurantsPlease. Indulge. Our small independent restaurants are on the verge of shutting down. The wait staff, kitchen workers, and cooks need us.

And visit places like Maple View Farm Ice Cream. The Nutter Family’s commitment to dairy farming continues and they need our support. And it’s so good.

BookstoresFrom Purple Crow in Hillsborough to Epilogue and Flyleaf in Chapel Hill, and McIntyre’s in Fearrington Village. Buy a book, read, and see the world – one of the only ways we can now. But be sure to buy that book locally.

Art galleries. It’s easier than ever to purchase a print, a vase, a gorgeous piece of creative brilliance, made with your neighbor’s hands. From the Hillsborough Art Gallery to FRANK to North Carolina Craft Gallery and This and That in Carrboro. It’s good for your heart and soul.

Retail therapy. It’s so easy to buy online these days. Think of Julian’s. Think of Sally Mack’s shop in Chapel Hill. Think of Carlisle and Linny Vintage Jewelry in Hillsborough. Uniquities in Chapel Hill and Uniquitiques vintage shop in lovely, historic downtown Hillsborough. Why? Because looking good while helping others make a living is a very fashionable goal.

Free guided walking toursof Franklin Street, UNC, and downtown Chapel Hill. It’s a good reminder of our community and a chance to reintroduce you to many local shops.

Riverwalka trail along the Eno River which flows through the middle of Hillsborough, including alongside the Historic District and Downtown. It’s a superb walk and reminder of the shops and restaurants in town.

Carrboro Farmers MarketOpen Saturdays 7am-Noon and Wednesdays 3-6 pm, and The Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, Saturday and Tuesdays. Farmers need our support and buying local and fresh is plain smart.

North Carolina Botanical Garden Annual Event: Sculpture in the Garden. 60 sculptures on display with 40 artists participating. Go here for details. Art soothes us, we are a community committed to artists, and without our continued support their lives, and ours, will become less colorful.

Cold brewsMicro-breweries are open and boy, do you deserve a break today. Cold, made locally, supporting jobs, and giving you a chance to cool down. Enough said. 

Coffee: Open Eye Café has been providing caffeine and courage to residents and visitors for a long time. So has Sutton’s. And Gray Squirrel. And Café Driade and Cup of Joe Hillsborough. Grab a locally made coffee, say hello, and help sustain our coffee houses.

Another way of taking care of our community is by taking care of yourself. In other words, take a walk.

Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation maintains a system of approximately 17.6 miles of urban greenways and trails.

Johnston’s Mill Head down the main trail from this parking area. The Triangle Land Conservancy has worked to save the places you love and the land we need to safeguard clean water, protect natural habitats, support local farms, and food, and connect people with nature.

We are all in this together, through the good times and the bad, and that will never change. Let’s do what we can to make sure that we all make it to the other side as healthy as we can be, as happy and prosperous as we can be, with hope in our hearts for a better world.

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