At Cameron Village, we consider ourselves to be part of a greater community. And being part of a community means giving back. We wanted to take a moment and highlight all the work that Café Carolina has done over the years. We chatted with Ron Hines, one of the owners, to hear about the restaurant’s charitable efforts.


In 1998, Rob and Lisa Autry, the founders of Café Carolina started their philanthropic efforts with the The V Foundation. They had a sandwich on the menu board that was called the “Jimmy V” and a portion of the proceeds went cancer research.

Then, in 2002, they opened a location in Chapel Hill and that’s right around when Ron Hines, a Boston native, joined the team. At that time, Ron became involved with The Arc, an organization dedicated to helping those with autism and other developmental disabilities. He helped make the Chapel Hill Café Carolina a training center for individuals with special needs.

“We would train them in everything from lining trays to cleaning windows and wiping tables and washing dishes. And it just became such a satisfaction that, in the community, people saw that we were making an effort to help with these individuals and that really started to build our foundation and culture in the café,” says Ron. “It taught the people working in the café to care for other people and to see people with less abilities or special needs or learning difficulties as people that would become family members.”

Special Olympics North Carolina

People started to notice that Café Carolina was working with special needs individuals and as a result, the café became connected with Special Olympics North Carolina.

“Our big first endeavor was to do a cookie sale where we would sell cookies for six weeks for a dollar. 100% of the proceeds, not a portion, 100% of the proceeds go to the Special Olympics,” says Ron. “It started off slowly. First year we sold about 12,000 cookies. And it’s grown now to where we sell in excess of $30,000 over the last six/seven years.”

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Owners Ron Hines and Steve Zanella accept an award from Special Olympics North Carolina.

Growing and Giving

As Café Carolina has grown, the number of organizations they’re helping has grown as well. The list includes Over the Edge, Urban Ministries, Frankie Lemmon School, the Pretty in Pink Motorcycle Run, SECU Family House, Wounded Warrior Project, the 4Kay Golf Classic, Open Arms Home for Children, and dozens of local organizations including schools, athletic programs, churches, women’s shelters, and soup kitchens.

And they’ve heard back from the community.

“Just yesterday I got a phone call from a professor at NC State,” says Ron. “He said, ‘I’ve been involved with Special Olympics for many years. I was here in 1999 when we had the World Games…I never put it together, but you’ve done so much work for Special Olympics over these last 17 years. I just wanted to say thank you.’”

Hearing comments like that, “just reinforces again what we do, we’re doing the right thing. Not only are we trying to run a really good business and make it a place where everyone knows, but we wanted people to know that Café Carolina is more than just a restaurant. It’s a place that actually cares and tries to give back. And it’s part of a community in which we live.”

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We’d like to give a special thanks to Ron and all the members of the Café Carolina family for all the work they do in the community.

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