CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — With students swarming UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus for the start of the fall semester Monday, off-campus, dozens of volunteers went door-to-door to help students living in surrounding neighborhoods settle into their new surroundings.
“Our motto’s be kind, be mindful, be a good neighbor,” said Aaron Bachenheimer, the executive director for Student Development at UNC, who plays an integral role in the Good Neighbor Initiative.
The effort began as a way to combat so-called trouble areas, after a multitude of noise complaints and other disruptive behaviors in years past.
“Most of our neighbors are permanent neighbors, non-student neighbors. They really love students, they love the vibrancy of living in a college town, they just want students to be thoughtful and respectful, and consider themselves part of the community,” Bachenheimer explained.
The initiative has been around for 19 years now and has continued to have a positive impact on neighborhoods surrounding UNC’s campus.
One key to that success has been the implementation of a program that gives students the option to register parties. When a social gathering is registered, if there is a noise complaint, a text will be sent to students, giving them 20 minutes to quiet down before the police get involved.
“We’ve actually seen noise complaints go down over time, we’ve really seen students take their social gatherings in a more responsible and intentional way,” said Bachenheimer.
The initiative has several stakeholders, including the Chapel Hill Police Department, with officers joining other volunteers to get the word out about resources available to create a sense of community.
“We always say, ‘get to know your neighbor,’ and that’s where community safety is the real root. We always enjoy this fun and getting out and walking,” said Chapel Hill Police Chief Celisa Lehew.
The culmination of the initiative is a community cookout at the baseball field near the Hargraves Community Center in September.