Unsung Heros

Resilience Diva Tami Schwerin – Getting it done by making it fun

Queen Bee 2009Few people are as good at their jobs as Tami Schwerin. The dynamic executive director of a small North Carolina-based nonprofit, she moves through her day like silk across polished oak. Her ready smile and signature girl-next-door charm exude a level of calm which belies the magnitude of her accomplishments.

In the twelve years since creating Abundance NC, Tami has built a vibrant local economy, beginning with Chatham Marketplace, a local food co-op grocery. In support of the Abundance mission “to cultivate and celebrate community resilience,” Tami and her team provide farm-to-table dinners, workshops, conferences and festivals. All of which handily promote community resilience by building awareness and fostering connections.

Tami’s husband Lyle Estill is also a local hero, playful and well-connected with a giant roll-o-dex. Between them they must know everyone within 100 miles of Moncure and their influence extends across the nation and globally. If you want to make something happen, all you have to do it pitch it to Tami and Lyle.

Tami’s secret is her natural penchant for parties. Even as a young girl, she loved to throw a party and has developed her talent into a fine art. Tami’s parties are legendary events, often themed and thrumming with costumed revelry. Her Mardi Gras parties come to mind, as does the Alice in Wonderland party she put together to celebrate her daughter Jess’s engagement.

Two hearts aligned, Judy Wicks and Tami Schwerin at the Money and Meaning Conference September 10, 2015

What Tami has always known and many of us are just catching onto is this; people like to have fun. If I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard the word fun come out of Tami’s mouth, I’d be swimming in dollars. It would appear that her life’s mission is to make sure everyone around her is having a good time and in that, she succeeds mightily.

I’m reading Judy Wicks’ memoir “Good Morning, Beautiful Business – The unexpected journey of an activist entrepreneur and local economy pioneer” and noticing the parallels between her life and Tami’s. Affirming Tami’s wisdom, Judy writes:

“And we’ve seen that when people get together, amazing things happen. So we create opportunities for people to come together to learn from, inspire and support one another, in their shared efforts to build more resilient communities.”

Today is Pepper Fest day and Tami is already out at Briar Chapel, setting things up for another legendary party this afternoon. It’s been raining for three days and the forecast is for more this afternoon but Tami is unfazed, posting to facebook: “Super excited about my new raincoat and THE 8TH ANNUAL AMAZING PEPPER FESTIVAL TODAY! 3-7pm….It will be an adventure…come on out and enjoy the covered food and music and kids events. Wear your rain gear! Ha!”

As I have come to realize, Tami’s ability to make everything more fun is what makes her nonprofit, her community and her life so successful. People respond to her and gravitate into her circle of light, eager to participate and support. Indeed, it was the twinkle in Tami’s eye that lured Bob and I here eight years ago. I couldn’t wait to throw in with Tami professionally, and when we saw the opportunity we bought a house in her neighborhood.

So there you have it: Tami follows her heart, and we follow her, eager to help create the antidote to the destructive soul-sucking global economy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading out to Pepper Fest!

Tami and Camille in the throes of the second annual Pepper Festival October 18, 2009

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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