• Health and Human Services Day

    In December, Leadership Wilmington was focused on health and human services. The objective of the day was to experience issues faced by individuals and families who require public assistance and to discuss critical factors in delivering human services from both the non-profit and publicly funded point of view. The day was packed with a tour, a grocery walk, and ten speakers.

    The day started with a tour of Good Shepherd Center and breakfast at their soup kitchen. Their mission is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and foster transition to housing. They have 118 beds open to all ages, genders, and family dynamics. They have separate rooms for men and women, as well as family rooms for groups that need to stay together.

    What I learned here that surprised me the most was just how much food they save from being discarded. Volunteers collect food daily from local grocery stores and restaurants. The food they collect is perfectly safe to eat but if not collected would be thrown away at the end of the day. They collect around 500 tons of food each year this way.

    After the tour we heard from Katrina Knight, the Executive Director of Good Shepherd Center, and Laurie Whalin with Novant Health. We then returned to the Chamber offices for Work on Wilmington Committee report outs and for a couple of our class members to share their leadership philosophy.

    Our next speaker was Yasmin Tomkinson, Executive Director of Cape Fear Literacy Council. Cape Fear Literacy Council’s mission is to “provide personalized education so adults can transform their lives and contribute to a stronger community”. Tomkinson shared one of her favorite transformation stories with us involving a man who gained confidence and was able to secure a job after working with her in one of their programs.

    MaLisa Umstead, Founder and Executive Director of A Safe Place, followed Tomkinson. A Safe Place focuses on prevention, advocacy, and restoration to assist victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking. North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 states in the nation for the number of sex trafficking cases. Before Umstead’s presentation, I and many others assumed Wilmington was a prime location due to the port. She shared that it is actually due to the ease of access to I-95. Ms. Umstead also shared they are in the process of starting an after-school program for at risk girls that will cover topics including healthy relationships, self-confidence, health and wellness, and much more.

    Next, we were joined by Patrick Brien, CEO of Cape Fear Collective. Cape Fear Collective drives towards equitable systemic change in Southeastern North Carolina by collaborating with community partners to leverage local assets, illuminate actionable insights, and catalyze innovative programming. Brien shared their process of buying properties to preserve affordable housing. They have purchased various residences in New Hanover County and Pender and plan to continue expanding.

    Around noon we headed to Vigilant Hope at Lake Forest Baptist Church. Vigilant Hope partners with other organizations and non-profits to work towards eliminating poverty. Once we arrived, we were split into five separate groups to participate in their grocery walk with Northside Food Co-op. This simulation is used to give individuals a taste of what it is like to live in a community with limited access to fresh foods. Each group was a “family”, with each participant having a role to play. My group consisted of a grandmother, a father, a few children, and an 18-year-old. We had $5 to purchase our lunch for the day and were instructed to walk to the local Family Dollar. After about a half mile walk, we reached the Family Dollar and purchased a box of noodles, tomato sauce, and pinto beans. We had about .40 cent left out of our $5. We then started our trek back to the church (“home”). During that time, one of the children (our group host) started to complain of a tooth ache. Once we arrived at home, we received a prompt letting us know that the lack of fresh food had taken a toll on our teeth, and we would need to go to the local dentist to get it checked out. We started our trek to the local dentist, which was about a mile away from home. Once we reached the dentist, we broke out of simulation to talk about our experience and what we heard, smelled, felt, and saw during our walks. We all noticed the amount of litter and the lack of care taken to the community sidewalks. Most sidewalks were overgrown, leaving us to walk on the edge of the road.  We discussed how privileged we felt and how we often don’t think twice about buying a $6 coffee or paying extra to get our groceries or meals delivered to our front door.

    When we arrived back at the church, we had frozen dinners waiting for us. We took turns using the microwaves and then gathered to eat and share each of our group experiences. Most groups walked around three miles total, and locations walked to included Family Dollar, Burger King, Food Lion, a local gas station, and more. Laura Bullock closed out the session by sharing about the 48-hour simulation they offer and their newest venture, the Roastery, which benefits Vigilant Hopes mission and employs those struggling with homelessness.

    The next two speakers were current class of 2022 members, Katelyn Mattox and Ashanti Gibbs.

    Katelyn Mattox, Program Director of Nourish NC, shared with the class that one in five children in New Hanover County struggle with hunger compared to the national average of one in seven. Nourish NC offers several programs to provide supplemental food assistance to children who would otherwise go hungry.

    Ashanti Gibbs, Program Manager at StepUp Wilmington, introduced the class to StepUp Wilmington programs and initiatives. StepUp Wilmington partners with adults through job training, job placement, career development and financial education, with the ultimate goal of moving individuals and families out of poverty and into long-term stability. It starts with a 32-hour week long employment workshop learning job search strategies followed by a 9-month long life skills program focusing on personal development and financial literacy.

    The final session of the day was a leadership development session focused on effective networking led by Craig Snow, Greater Wilmington Business Journal Account Executive, and Sheri Shaw, Assistant Dean of Student Success, College of Health and Human Services, UNCW. The class learned about different networking styles and practiced networking with each other using a randomized game of two truths and a lie.

    After a long day we wrapped up around 5:00pm with some class members heading to the Chamber for a Holiday Mixer. We enjoyed hot chocolate while debriefing the experiences of the day and discussing what we as leaders can do to enact change in the community.

    We are now halfway through the Leadership Wilmington program and in my opinion this day was the most insightful so far. The topics covered are all close to my heart and I could tell everyone who spoke to us is truly passionate about helping our community. They are all working hard together to make Wilmington a great place for everyone.

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