After producing car parts at an automotive parts factory beginning when she was a senior in high school, Helvey moved south in search of a better life. A stint walking the picket line when they went on strike resulted in threats of prosecution, so there was no tearful goodbye when she walked out the door of Switches. It was a layoff that, gratefully, never ended, a stroke of luck that eventually landed Helvey in Carrboro.
Her part-time job as a bartender in Indiana served her well when she moved to NC, where they had only recently gotten "liquor by the drink," and knowledgeable barkeeps were in high demand. Helvey was hired by UNC as the one and only state-employed bartender in North Carolina, a position she held until 1993. This not only gave her a decent living wage and her family health insurance, it also gave her a unique perspective on her community. While managing the bar at the Carolina Inn, she received a higher education that money couldn't buy. She also gave birth to her two daughters during these years.
Helvey purchased her house in Carrboro in March of 1985, moving back from Chatham County after having resided in a less than desirable apartment complex there years prior. She came back anyway. She was meant to be here.
In 1996 she taught herself graphic design and website development and started her business,
UniqueOrn Enterprises. Helvey picked up her camera again, a longtime love, and began documenting the history of Carrboro in photos and stories.
It's the hope of Jackie to make a difference in the community where she lives, works, plays, and has raised her daughters, Amber and Teresa Hayes. Both are graduates of East Chapel Hill High School. Amber is a graduate of High Point University. Both continue to live in North Carolina.
Living in this area for over 30 years makes Helvey an old-timer in the eyes of some folks, an "almost native." Carrboro is Amber and Reese's home town and they've participated in Carrboro events since they were born, and continue to work and volunteer at various community gatherings with their Mom.
Jackie has a weekly radio show focusing on the arts in and around Carrboro called The Wacqueline Stern Show that airs live (with live streaming at the time of broadcast) on Friday nights at 6 pm. Her show is on WCOM, 103.5 FM, Chapel Hill and Carrboro's all volunteer run community radio station. Helvey also does occasional commentaries for 1360 WCHL in Chapel Hill.
Helvey began videotaping some of her WCOM shows in 2009. The radio show video clips, including live premiere music perfomances, are available on the Wac Stern Show Channel on Vimeo. These interview videos became The Wacqueline Stern TV Show, a television show produced by Jackie and broadcast on the Peoples Channel in Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Tuesdays at 11am, and in Durham on Wednesdays at 4pm. She tries to pretend like she knows what she's doing and sometimes, she actually does.
As a web designer for more than 15 years, Jackie received Golden Web Awards, given by the International Association of Web Masters and Designers for excellence in website design and content, as well as having won two out of three statewide awards from the NC Center for Voter Education for political candidates' websites.
As a photographer, one of Helvey's pictures was voted best photo on the Environment North Carolina's website, and her images have been featured on countless websites and in numerous publications and TV news stories. Her photo exhibit, "Happy 100th Birthday Carrboro," featuring the people and places of Carrboro, was part of a group exhibit celebrating Carrboro's 100th birthday, from June-October, 2011, at Carrboro Branch Library. It will be part of a permanent collection in the new Carrboro Library. She is the photographer for the Carrboro Farmers' Market and a photographer for the Town of Carrboro.
Some of the publications where Jackie's images can be found include the Bon Appétit Magazine and Williams-Sonoma websites, The National Building Museum in Washington DC's book Green Community, Our State Magazine, The Raleigh News and Observer, The Independent, AAA Carolina's GO Magazine, The Chapel Hill News, The Carrboro Citizen, Chapel Hill Magazine, The Herald Sun, Blue Ridge Outdoors, the Carrboro Visitor's Guide, the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor's Guide and WTVD TV.
As co-chair of the Carrboro Film Festival in 2012, Jackie once again played a director in the festival opener.
Helvey occasionally wrote for the Carrboro Citizen, such as this column published in December, 2011, on the importance of supporting community radio.
On April 5th, 2011, the Town of Carrboro presented Jackie with a sculpture in honor of her years on the Carrboro Arts Committee, and passed a resolution, read at the Carrboro Day Centennial Celebration, declaring the first week of May, "Jackie Helvey Week," an honor that was a first in Carrboro. On May 18, 2011 she was given Roses by the Chapel Hill News.
Helvey contributed to the Carrboro Citizen's Carrboro Centennial Commemorative 100th. birthday issue.
In November 2010, Jackie played in the Carrboro Film Festival 2010 Opener by fellow CFF founder and co-chair, Nic Beery.
On January 5, 2010, Helvey was the guest on Claudio's Speakeasy and Radio Theater on WCOM 103.5.
Jackie was the guest on DSI Witness News on 1360 WCHL on Dec. 29, 2009, spoofing the Carrboro Poet Laureate search. Yes, she thinks she's a comedian too. Her insane stage fright is the only thing holding her back.
On November 22, 2009, Helvey made her acting debut as the director in the Carrboro Film Festival Intro.
Airing on August 3, 2009, Hilary Russo interviewed Jackie and Jim McQuaid on Second Cinema, discussing the Carrboro Film Festival.
Helvey was a guest on Live With Lisa, in December 2008, a show interviewing WCOM radio show hosts broadcast on the Peoples Channel in Chapel Hill.
In April 2008, Jackie was named a "Hometown Hero" by WCHL Radio Station in Chapel Hill, and given a Village Pride Award.
In February 2008, Helvey was featured in Our State Magazine in an article about Carrboro.
In March 2007, Helvey was selected Volunteer of the Year by the Town of Carrboro, and recognized in Women Who Shine in the Raleigh News and Observer.
Also in 2007, she published the children's book that she wrote for her daughters 15 years earlier, Wiggley Waggley Woo.
Since the late 1990's Helvey has served, and continues to serve, on numerous committees and boards in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
A strong supporter of the arts, Jackie was on the Town of Carrboro Arts Committee Advisory Board from 1998 until 2011, is a founder of the Carrboro Music Festival and current member of that committee, and a founder and co-chair of the Carrboro Film Festival, always striving to make her community a better place, while working to keep the arts in the forefront.
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