ROSES to Bill Thorpe, an influential local public servant and civil rights champion who left this community a better place than he found it.Thorpe, a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, died last weekend of heart failure.Thorpe, who served on the Town Council in the 1970s and '80s and was elected again in 2005, left a proud mark on this place. He was co-author of the town charter, and he led not one but two drives to keep the name and legacy of Martin Luther King at the forefront of Chapel Hill's agenda.Thorpe convinced the council to make King's birthday an official holiday -- in the early 1980s, several years before the federal government did the same. Behind his leadership on the issue, Chapel Hill was one of the first Southern towns to so honor the great civil rights leader.More recently, Thorpe took a leading role again, this time at the head of a contentious debate over renaming Airport Road for King. There was considerable opposition, but once again, Thorpe prevailed; the former Airport Road is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.His friends and colleagues will remember him not only as an important figure in local politics and social justice issues, but as a gregarious man with an easy smile and a friendly nature. He will be sorely missed. It's a sad day in Chapel Hill.
ROSES to the organizers and volunteers who put together Project Homeless Connect, an annual one-day event that provides services for the local homeless population.Dozens of volunteers turned out and nearly 200 people showed up to take advantage of the services, which ranged from medical and dental care to haircuts and donated clothing to counseling on finding and keeping a job.There's a tendency sometimes to think of "the homeless" as a breed apart, as fundamentally different from those of us who are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads. But they are us. Especially in the current troubled economic climate, many people aren't much more than a layoff, a foreclosure or a medical crisis away from finding themselves without the resources to sustain a home.Project Homeless Connect, a part of the strategic plan to end chronic homelessness in Orange County, does more than just provide a day's worth of services. It's an opportunity to make human connections. The homeless population and the non-homeless population seldom intersect; this event was a chance to do that in a positive and meaningful way.
ROSES to organizer Gerry Williams and the rest of the crew who once again brought off a wonderful day of music all over downtown Carrboro.The Carrboro Music Festival on Sunday put more than 160 acts on more than 20 stages throughout town. All of it free, all of it fun. Thousands of people strolled the streets, stopping for spells long and short at various venues to enjoy the music. Kids danced and romped -- and so did their folks.The weather was wonderful, and the music, as always, spanned just about every genre you could imagine, and some that probably never occurred to you.To the average festival-goer, the whole thing looks as if it just happens. It doesn't, of course. It take a lot of people working very hard to make an event like this look effortless. On Monday, those folks got a well-deserved rest.