Elon University students and community members explored the cuisine, arts and recreational activities Alamance County has to offer through Welcome to Your Neighborhood, an event sponsored by the Elon Community Church.

The event was created last year after discussions between the church’s university relations committee and Elon faculty and staff.

“When we formed in January 2013, we met with faculty and staff at Elon,” said Committee Chair Sherry Scott, “We asked what the needs of the students were.”

According to Scott, University Chaplain Jan Fuller said students need to learn what the area outside of Elon has to offer them. She wanted to come up with a way to help students find restaurants off campus.

That proved to be a difficult feat for the committee.

“We had no way of helping students find restaurants,” Scott said. “So we decided to bring the restaurants to students.”

Scott and the rest of the university relations committee sought out a variety of restaurants from Italian-American to Southern to, of course, North Carolina barbeque.

Next, they reached out to local recreational facilities like Burlington Parks and Recreation, Alamance Battleground Friends and the Burlington Velo Club.

Scott explained that Welcome to Your Neighborhood not only introduces students to food and recreation, but also to local artisans.

If a student likes to paint, they can talk to an artist who gives lessons. Students who want to act or volunteer can look into Stanfield Walker Studios and Studio One, the two theaters in Alamance County.

“Everyone’s happy with who they’re meeting,” Scott said. “And they’re finding out things they wouldn’t otherwise know.”

First years Lea Silverman and Micaela Soucy did not know the Burlington Co-op took Phoenix Cash until they were directed to the church on their way to Acorn.

“I don’t know the restaurants in the area, so it’s good to get take-out menus,” Silverman said.

Sophomore Kelly Reagan agreed.

“It’s good to see what’s in the community,” she said, “Especially since I have a car this year, and I don’t really know what’s around.”

The gathering is also a good way for local businesses to find support from the Elon community.

Antioyne Rone lived his whole life in the town of Elon and has watched the university grow. He left the area for Atlanta in 2001, and when he came back, he was surprised at how much Elon had increased in size.

“It needed people,” he said.

Now, Rone said he hopes the growth will benefit his family’s new restaurant Delightful Soul, a Southern-style restaurant that opened five weeks ago. The business had been a catering company for 10 years, but customers clamored for a restaurant.

One of the organizers of Welcome to Your Neighborhood approached Rone at Delightful Soul and asked if he would set up a stand at the event. He jumped at the opportunity.

“We needed exposure,” he said. “We cook from our heart and soul, and it shows in the food.”

Reagan, Silverman and Soucy want to support Rone and the other small business owners in the area.

“It makes us more aware of what’s in the community, especially since Elon is a bubble,” Reagan said. “We need to support Alamance County.”