Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Viewing life through a different lens

diversity-4

2016 Diversity Chair Chris Hailey and Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an avid football fan. On any given Saturday or Sunday, I’m usually sitting back watching games when I see a real bone-headed play that leaves me thinking, “What was that all about?”

Granted the play has been stopped, we know the result and, in many instances, we watch replays over and over from every angle. Knowing the outcome, many of us become sports geniuses — hence the term “armchair quarterbacks.”

Several years ago, I had the opportunity, through our Leadership Lake Norman program, to tour the Criminal Justice Center at the Central Piedmont Community College Merancas Campus in Huntersville. There I was allowed to participate in a firearms simulation on which our law enforcement officers are required to train. Participants are provided a firearm equipped with a laser that registers actual hits and misses in a simulated environment.

In some situations, subjects in the video are innocent bystanders. In others, in the blink of an eye, the bystander became an armed assailant. The actual time you as a law enforcement officer have to ascertain the threat and act are mere seconds. My simulation involved terrorists who had taken hostages on a passenger jet in flight. I laughed it off and went home after I hit an assailant, a bystander and the fuselage of the plane perhaps dooming all of the passengers. For me, in that room with that make-believe gun in a simulated environment, it was little more than a video game.

Out on the streets, it’s anything but.

The last few days in Charlotte, and last few months nationwide, have seen tensions between law enforcement and the public reach a precipice. As I personally struggle to understand why we have reached this point, my good friend and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Diversity Chairman Chris Hailey asked me to “step back away from my ‘whiteness’ and see the world through a different lens — that of an African-American man.”

What some of us may see as a single incident is for many a tipping point of years of frustration, anxiety and fear. While there can be no excuse for looting, violence and lawlessness, there must be a way to confront the feelings many minorities are experiencing.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Lake Norman Chamber Diversity Council will host a Lunch & Learn session at the CPCC Merancas Campus with Brandi Riggins from Charter Communications. She will discuss race relations and how we can continue to come together as a community. The Diversity Council will also host another community forum later in the month.

In the meantime, the Lake Norman Chamber will salute our public safety officers who put their lives on the line for us each and every day — our police, fire and EMS officers along with the Crime Stopper of the Year. That event takes place Thursday, Oct. 20, at NorthStone Country Club.

Unlike football, our police officers have no instant replay and no way to truly know what’s in the mind of the person they stop or try to apprehend. They have no ability to look back on what they could or should have done. They have only the moment. It’s real time.

One thing I do know for certain: none of our officers are out there looking for confrontation. They simply want to serve and go home safe at the end of the day to their families.

My friend Chris asked me to see life though a different lens. The reality is I’m not sure I ever really can. But I do know, I need to try. I pray to God that we all try.

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October 11, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heroes come in many form

SuperI recently read a book entitled Hollywood Kryptonite about the life and tragic death of Hollywood actor George Reeves. Reeves is perhaps better known as the “Man of Steel” – the actor who played Superman in the 1950 television series – The Adventures of Superman.

Many of the kids in my neighborhood would gather around their TV sets at 3:30 in the afternoon after school to see Superman, typically rescuing Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson, as he fought to preserve “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

My mother even went so far as to sew capes for a little boy in the neighborhood and myself as we pretended to be super heroes. While we couldn’t fly, we did jump on our Schwinn bikes, our bright red capes blowing in the wind as we pedaled from neighborhood to neighborhood, secure in the notion we were real American super heroes.

This past month, a different set of heroes emerged at Lake Norman. They didn’t don red capes and blue tights with a big yellow letter “S” on their chest.  But they were actual heroes none the less.

A community forum was held at CPCC Merancas Campus to discuss community policing and bringing our community closer together. A national unrest between law enforcement and the community at large is playing out in communities across the nation.  While the major protests have not been as widespread in our region, panelists comprised of our Davidson and Huntersville Police Chiefs along with CPCC, Charlotte Police, and FBI did share the “real fear minorities have of law enforcement.”

It took courage to open up about how an African American man feels being stopped by a white police officer at night at a routine traffic stop or the deep wounds of racial prejudice, which could have occurred decades ago, but are still lurking under the surface today.

Pic 7 Splash Pad

Huntersville Mayor John Anerall, Kiwanis Governor Dawn Hodges, and Bill Russell – Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce 

Just a week later, community, business, and elected leaders gathered at the Splashville Park as the Lake Norman Kiwanis and the Town of Cornelius PARC Department unveiled a new Splash Pad in Smithfield Park. The Kiwanis Club, assisted by the Park Board, have raised nearly $150,000 in donations for the recreational attraction.

The driving force behind the Splash Pad is Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla. John was president of the Kiwanis Club several years ago when the Kiwanis looked at creating a water park for children. Ironically, the club which is for the most part made up of Caucasians, chose to locate the park in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Cornelius – Smithfield. It also wasn’t lost on me at the dedication of the park, the corporate donations which came from Huntersville and Davidson for this regional collaboration.

This month, the Lake Norman Chamber will recognize Corporations, Small Businesses, Non-profits, and Individuals who both practice and promote diversity in the workplace at our Annual Diversity Luncheon to be held Thursday, September 15th at River Run Country Club in Davidson.

These Champions of Diversity are working to bring our community and region together when so many others still seek to drive us apart. Overcoming prejudice and racism is a daunting task. Many of us still wrestle with generational attitudes when it comes to race, gender identity, cultural, and even generational diversity.

We all need to take to heart the words of Mother Teresa who said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Fifty years after watching my first Superman episode, I’ve come to realize it doesn’t take a man of steel who can leap tall buildings or be faster than a locomotive to be a genuine hero.  It can come in the form of a civic club member, police officer, or community volunteer who simply wants to leave their community better than they found it.

Heroes are just everyday people. They may not be able to change the world but they can impact one life at a time. Creating ripples which speak to our hearts and forever touch our souls.

Bill Russell

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Millenials – Our Next Generation

Bill Russell introduction at the Winthrop University Men's Leadership Conference

Introduction at the Winthrop University Men’s Leadership Conference

In May, I had the opportunity to speak to our Hough High School Future Business Leaders of America at their year-end ceremony about leadership and commitment.  More recently, I was having dinner with a close friend and her nephew Brian.

Brian is a rising tenth grader and we touched on school, summer activities, and movies before our conversation turned to football. Brian plays linebacker for his high school football team and I listened intently as he discussed his sport.

It’s been a long time ago since I was a tenth grader but I still recall the fun I had in neighborhood pickup games.  When we couldn’t play outside, we crammed into my room and played electric football on an aluminum game board made by Tudor.  My players were hand painted to look like the Green Bay Packers and when you turned it on, the board would vibrate and hum sending the players bouncing in all different directions.

Today, Brian plays Madden NFL on a Play Station 3 with state of the art animation which looks like it is taking place in real time.  Technology over the last four decades has advanced so that today, Wii U has a glove you can slip on to play your favorite outdoor sport – tennis, golf, baseball – in the privacy of your home on a hi-def TV.

While I might be impressed by this amazing technology, Brian and the Hough High School business leaders, products of the millennial generation, are rather unfazed. The millennials are emerging as the largest generation ever (80 million strong today in the United States alone) and will soon dominate our retail and service markets as well as the emerging workforce which will shape commerce worldwide.

They are a generation for whom connectivity has always been a constant.  They grew up with the Internet, smart phones, and high speed computers where the world is simply a key stroke away.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held an informative luncheon on “Motivating Millennials.”  Deanna Arnold with Employer’s Advantage pointed out there are tremendous cultural changes taking place in the workplace with the emergence of the Y Generation and the millennials.  This is a demographic where everything is immediate and the Internet provides billions of options. While Boomers like myself are loyal to rules and policies, and Generation X simply blended in, the millennial generation is a product of their environment and their environment has always changed daily.

They have lived in a time where the next version of everything was simply around the corner. Have a new IPhone?  The next model is simply six months away with likely updates every month.

The millennials also grew up in a culture where there are no winners and losers.  According to Arnold, “Everyone gets a trophy.” While there is individual recognition, everyone is treated the same. One of the positives is that diversity in the workplace and community is simply not an issue for a millennial.  They do not understand why anyone would make a big deal out of differences.

According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Millennials are entrepreneurial with 55% saying they would like to start their own business and that they believe (61%) that hard work is the key to success.  Millennials also have a positive view of profit and business competition.

When it comes to politics, Millennials believe more strongly in state and local governments, but largely shun party labels.  They care much more deeply about issues than they do candidates.

There is little doubt the next generation of business and community leaders will rewrite the rules when it comes to business and commerce. Studies show that the Millennial Generation needs detailed instructions regarding outcomes. Once provided, get out of the way and let them get it done.

That night after speaking to Brian, I reflected on my encounter with the young business leaders from Hough High and thought about when I was in tenth grade with my life before me.  One of my mentors was the late Senator Bobby Kennedy who was just 42 when he left an unfinished life.

Bobby reminded us, “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total — all of these acts — will be written in the history of this generation.”

Very soon, America will feel the power of her young people. The millennials are our legacy. Shaped by the experiences and culture of their time with a history that has yet to be written.

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Hospital in Davidson Represents a Second Chance

The following article appeared as a “Letter to the Editor” in many Lake Norman regional publications the week of April 7, 2014.

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

This past week, community and business leaders received a firsthand look into the new Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson. Standing in the courtyard, I was struck by how much the new facility resembled a hotel, rather than a healthcare facility.

Our new behavioral health hospital was not without controversy as elected leaders and neighborhood opponents in Huntersville rejected the earlier concept. While the denial for a rezoning of the parcel was in essence based on “it just didn’t fit in”, I suspect the truth is many of those who opposed the idea of a behavioral health hospital gave into their fear of the unknown.

A large segment of our population simply do not know how to react to people with disabilities. Few of us understand the daily challenges facing those with disabilities and their family and caregivers.  Even more taboo in our society are those with “mental issues.”

Yet one in four, will at some point in their life, have a behavioral health issue.  It is a statistic that is both startling and undeniable. Still, we whisper at the dinner table about the neighbor down the street or the colleague at work, and assume it will never be someone in our family – unfortunately, one day, it may be.

The tragedy of last week’s shooting at Fort Hood brings the issue of mental illness to the forefront. The bigger question is – could it have been prevented?  Our local communities know all too well the heartache of teenage depression and suicide.

Not long ago, I ran across an article that the Rev. Billy Graham wrote.  In it, Rev. Graham says, “If God is in control of everything, why do bad things happen to us?  I’d like to believe in God but I just can’t understand this.”

Graham answers that he’s been asked a hundred times why evil is allowed to take place. He responds, “I have to tell you honestly that I do not know the answer – not fully.” He goes on to point out that in all our challenges, God is with us and in the end, we’ll get through it – together.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

At the opening of the hospital, we heard administrators and healthcare officials share their plans for the new facility and the strides we were making in mental health.  The most poignant comments though came from the mother of a child who battled healthcare issues and a young lady who discussed her own challenges.

She said this hospital represented a second chance. Receiving quality care, she overcame depression and anxiety and today is making a significant contribution to our community both as a parent and a citizen.

We still have a ways to go as a community to fully understand the challenges facing those with disabilities.  As business and community leaders, we need to ensure Building Codes are written which make it easier for those with disabilities to have access to the same resources we often take for granted.

In an age where we are striving to embrace diversity, we must overcome our fear of those with behavioral health issues.  As Reverend Graham pointed out, we may not always understand why bad things happen to good people, but how we react to those bad things reveals our very character as a people.

The new hospital in Davidson represents second chances and new beginnings for many in our region. It is also a second chance for our community.  After giving into our fear of the unknown and rejecting the facility the first time out, this time – we got it right.

Bill Russell
Huntersville, NC

Bill Russell is the president and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and grater Lake Norman region.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barium Springs – A promise of hope

The article below appears in the August issue of Cornelius Life Magazine.

Isn’t it amazing in this fast paced world of smart phones, laptops, Facebook, and texting, it’s the simplest of things that teach us what’s really important in life. I was reminded of that by a teenager whose words made my heart tremble and brought tears to my eyes.

As the president of the chamber, I am keenly aware that while we are blessed to live in the Lake Norman region, there are still many in our community that need a helping hand. The generosity of our residents is nothing short of spectacular as we give freely of our time, talents and financial resources from Habitat Homes for single parents to Big Day at the Lake.

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

 

A few weeks ago, I attended a fundraiser for Barium Springs at The Cove Church in Mooresville.  Surrounded by approximately 400 other community and business leaders, we networked and discussed the issues of the day ranging from taxation to tolls waiting on the program to begin.  

Then the lights dimmed and I heard those words, those chilling words which seared into my soul.  I looked into the eyes which stared back into mine and the face of innocence weathered by years of abuse and neglect.  I listened as Barium Springs volunteers and school officials shared their own particular stories. Barium Springs provides an array of services for children, families and individuals throughout our state.  Their main objectives are to provide a safe home through residential homes and foster care; to heal the hurt for children who are troubled, abused or neglected; and to encourage a healthy start through educational and prevention programs.

I grew up with two parents who loved their children.  Mom and dad were both very active in the Rock Hill (SC) community serving in civic organizations like the Jaycees, Kiwanis, United Way, Red Cross and our church.  Dad worked with other kids as a commissioner of Little League Baseball and ironically daddy led an effort to create a Boys Home for kids who found themselves in need of mentoring and guidance.

To this day, when I call my mom she always ends the conversation telling me “I love you.”  And her words still warmly embrace me just as they did in my youth when she tucked me into bed each night.  Those words come harder for dad.  It’s his actions which speak louder than the words as we enjoy a Saturday afternoon football game together or a horseback ride through the woods on our family farm.

I listened that May day as teenagers told their stories of neglect.  Parents who sometimes never got out of bed, their minds and bodies wracked by years of substance abuse, leaving a trail of victims in their wake – among them their children.  Kids that before Barium Springs, never had a bed to sleep in or a pillow to rest their head. 

As I watched a short video, a young man appeared on the screen.  He spoke of the years of abuse at the hands of his father.  But it was the eyes which touched my heart. The pain and anguish that no child should ever have to endure.  Barium Springs has turned his life around and today he is a good student, involved in athletics, with a chance for a scholarship and a bright hope for the future.

 

Cody

Cody

Then he said it, those words which still bring tears to my eyes.  The first time they escaped his lips, I felt my eyes well up and I hoped those at my table wouldn’t see me weep.   At that moment in time, he was not speaking to a camera or the other 400 people in the room.  He was speaking to me when he said, “I want to grow up and be the daddy my father wasn’t.”

No one can undo the hurt or the scars they leave.  Memories may linger, but with a new day comes a promise of hope. The volunteers and contributors to Barium Springs provide that hope through support and unconditional love…and perhaps the chance to be a parent that their mother or father wasn’t.  

ill Russell

Bill Russell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  For information about Barium Springs, to set up a tour of their campus, or make a contribution call 704-872-4157 or visit  www.bariumsprings.org.

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Personal, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

North Mecklenburg’s Night Out is a Huge Success

Cornelius Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant at the Huntersville Night Out

Local citizens turned out in mass in Huntersville at the National Night Out organized by the Huntersville Police Department.  Parking at Birkdale Village was scarce as parents attended with their children as they played games and sampled goodies from the vendors.  While Birkdale Village was packed, there was also a very good turn out in both Davidson and Cornelius as residents, at Roosevelt Wilson Park and Jetton Village respectively, had an opportunity to meet their public safety officers and find out more about safety awareness and crime prevention.

 National Night Out is billed as an event to give “Neighborhood Crime & Drugs” a going away party.  Our local Crime Stoppers Chapter had a presence at all three venues as they handed out literature on how to make our neighborhoods safer.  I was impressed by the community and business support of the events as local restaurants like The Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson, Alton’s Kitchen and Cocktails in Cornelius, and Chik-fil-A at Northcross provided much of the free food.

 Local civic organizations, health care providers, and businesses were also well represented in the family event.  While the sky remained overcast for much of the evening and actually dampened the tail end of the Cornelius event, the participants all enjoyed a great evening socializing with our local law enforcement, learning more about how we as citizens can work together to make a safer community, while generally having an awesome time.  A special thanks to all the local law enforcement officers and volunteers who made National Night Out such a success in all three communities!

On Thursday, October 18th, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will have our opportunity to formally say thank you with a salute to our public safety officers at an annual luncheon which recognizes the Public Safety Officer of the Year from each police and fire department as well as North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad and the Crime Stopper of the Year. 

Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice with Crime Stopper President Tommy Davis

National Night Out is a great community event for the towns of the Lake Norman region.  Creating a “safe” community does not happen by accident.  We are fortunate to have dedicated public servants keeping a watchful eye on our communities – both those who are employed by the towns and those who volunteer.  Their commitment, hard work, and selfless service are what make our community a great place to live, work, and visit.

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Big Day at the Lake

Perhaps no other single event at Lake Norman impacts children as much as Big Day at the Lake.  “Big Day,” which takes place on a Saturday in July, was created by Business Today publisher Dave Yochum.  On July 21st, the Lake Norman business community, along with quite a few retired and active community citizens, opened their checkbooks and shared their time and resources with 144 at-risk children from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte.

Close to 80 boat hosts took out the Big Brother or Sister (Bigs) along with their “littles” who enjoyed a morning on the lake – many for the first time.  Then it was off for lunch at the Energy Explorium where 600 hot dogs, 75 pizzas, and 20 pounds of Cole slaw was dished out by the volunteers from many of the lake’s active civic clubs.

Big Day organizers set a goal of $50,000 in cash, and while businesses are just beginning to see the clouds of economic recession fade, the group exceeded their goal with slightly more than $60,000 collected.  It is estimated that 83% of every dollar collected goes right back into the charity itself.  Those contributions will help assist the organization long after the summer has passed.

I have been fortunate the last few years to be the guest of the Brian Sisson family as Brian, Tricia, Kaitlyn, and Sam typically hosts a “Big and Little.”  This year the Sisson’s took Willie and his Big Brother Aaron Grissom out on the lake.  Willie is a fifth grader and you could see the excitement in his eyes as he stepped aboard the Sisson boat.

Willie with his big brother Aaron and Aaron’s girlfriend at Big day

Aaron and Willie have been teamed up for a couple of years.  They have battled the rapids at the WhitewaterCenter in Charlotte and taken in Carowinds but I don’t think any of that compared to piloting the boat back to the Peninsula Yacht Club or making the flip off the back of the boat into the cool water with all the other children watching.

Hearing the splashing and laughter last Saturday at Big Day at the Lake brings back so many fond memories I have as a child with the wonderful trips our family took to the beach and our days out on Lake Wylie (SC) that we just affectionately referred to as “the river.”

Kids like Willie will never forget their Big Day at the Lake.  A day when strangers became friends.  When the families of Lake Norman opened their hearts to impressionable young people letting them know we care.

It was a day when Charlotte’s kids were our kids. A day filled with a compassion as wide as the shoreline and deeper than Lake Norman’s deepest point. It was a day like no other.  It was our Big Day at the Lake.

July 30, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson is a great decision for the Lake Norman region

The below editorial was distributed and has appeared in much of the Lake Norman media.  It is reprinted here in my blog:

Mary Beth Kuzmanovich speaks about the new hospital planned for Davidson

News last week at a press conference held at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce that Carolinas HealthCare System plans to build a 66-bed behavioral health hospital in Davidson was welcomed.  While it could be argued the former site in Huntersville was appropriate given the dramatic increase in the population of that area, the new site, with its easy access to both I-77 and I-85, may prove to be more accessible for our region.

The Chamber was given the unique opportunity last week, not only to host the announcement, but to comment on the facility itself.  The economic impact of this decision is considerable as the total investment of Carolinas HealthCare is estimated at $36 million and will provide 155 well-paying jobs, many of which will be filled from the local employment market.

In addition, the campus itself will serve as an incubator to other ancillary businesses, which will gravitate to that site supplying more economic activity — and with it … jobs!

While there is no question the medical facility will be a significant economic catalyst for Davidson, it provides a critical healthcare need that we lack at the present time.  The loss this year of a high school principal and two young students, and more recently the tragic news regarding a former north Mecklenburg elected official and community activist, who all lost their battle with conditions such a facility may have helped relieve, underscore how much of a need this is.

One in four families hasa member who deals with depression, anxiety, a bi-polar disorder or some other behavioral health issue.  It could be the good-natured fellow that dresses up as Santa for his community and entertains legions of kids at Christmas.  Perhaps, it might be the secretary down the street, or even a child at school.

Behavioral health hospital site in Davidson

The heartfelt and painful admission by a young teenager recently in The Lake Norman Citizen that she herself struggled with depression and tried to take her own life is evidence that depression and behavioral health issues are not confined to any gender, race or age.  Its victims come from all economic and social walks of life.

Without proper diagnosis and treatment, this thief silently changes its victim’s outlook on life and their perspective on the riches of living, leaving in its wake, tragedy and despair for loved ones and friends, many of whom “never saw it coming.”

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Carolinas HealthCare System for pursuing this critical healthcare need despite recent setbacks on prior zoning decisions in Huntersville.  We would also like to convey our sincere appreciation to Davidson Mayor John Woods and the entire Davidson Town Board for stepping in and embracing this facility.

Bill Russell speaking on behalf of the Lake Norman Chamber

Mayor Woods, a banker by trade, understands this healthcare facility will be a significant investment for his town and our region, which will pay huge dividends in the future.  It will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and vitality for his community supplying employment and ancillary businesses that will be attracted to the site.

But more importantly, it will provide a critical healthcare need that is sorely lacking in the Lake Norman-north Charlotte market.  It also sends a strong and profound message to the thousands of residents, family members, friends, colleagues, and kids who suffer from some type of behavioral health issue, that from this day forward help is on its way.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president and chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with more than 900 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and greater Lake Norman region.

May 17, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Need Behavioral Health Hospital in Huntersville

Proposed Huntersville Hospital

Set to be voted on by the Huntersville Town Board this month is a 66-bed behavioral health hospital to be built by Carolinas Healthcare Systems.  CHS officials reviewed the need for the facility last summer at a Lake Norman Chamber Focus Friday.  Del Murphy, vice president of Carolinas Healthcare System’s management company pointed out to business leaders that an average of 20 to 30 patients are held in emergency departments and general acute beds at CMC hospitals in Charlotte, awaiting psychiatric bed placement.  There are simply not enough beds to service our growing county.

A few weeks ago, I attended and spoke at the Huntersville Town Board Public Hearing on the topic.  The Town Hall was overflowing with spectators as well as residents from one of the local neighborhoods.  Most of the residents were there to speak against the project.  They were not against the idea of a hospital – “Just not in my backyard.”

 I listened intently as the hospital administrators and health care officials were questioned by Huntersville Town Board Members and Planning Board staff regarding traffic patterns, roads, buffers, walls, and even landscaping.  The residents themselves then took the podium to speak about home values and the notion they were not informed, even though this issue was written about in the papers this summer.

Grandmamma Feemster - "Tillie"

Given the chance to speak, I wondered aloud why we spent so much time speaking to infrastructure and so little time focusing on people.  I pointed out in the little research I did on the topic, I learned that 1 in 4 families has at least 1 family member with a behavioral health issue.  Certainly behavioral health has touched my family with a grandfather who succumbed to Alzheimer’s and a grandmother who dealt with dementia until we lost her a year ago this month.

Looking around the room, I pointed out that many there that evening were likely being treated for some type of behavioral health problem. In my 2-minute remarks, I reminded the commissioners, as well as the residents, that the people who would be treated in that facility are their neighbors, friends, co-workers and perhaps family members.

Lake Norman Aktion Club - Winter Coat Drive

In addition to my role at the Chamber, I have the opportunity to work with kids with disabilities.  Actually these young people in our Aktion Club are individuals 18 years of age or older.  However, they remain – “my kids.”  They are often referred to in society as special needs.  I learned long ago, they don’t want to be treated special.  They only want to be treated the same.

In a community of 47,000 people and a region that’s home to tens of thousands more, we need this critical healthcare facility.  While a small minority may fear what they do not know, I fear what we will lose as a community by not focusing on people who need our support when it comes to quality health care –  and at a time, when they need our support the most.

February 14, 2012 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

We Must Be Equal in the Eyes of Each Other

Helen Thomas - Former White House Press Corps Member

Last month, Helen Thomas, the legendary White Correspondent retired. The longtime White House journalist has covered every president since Dwight Eisenhower and broke several barriers for female journalists. She resigned her position as a columnist with the Hearst Newspapers in the wake of controversial remarks made in late May about the need for Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Poland and Germany.  There was some discussion among talk show hosts that perhaps this prejudicial gaffe by an 89-year old legend should be overlooked. However, according to many who know her, this latest comment was not her first Anti-Semitic comment. It was perhaps the first caught on video and replayed for the world to witness.

The words we use not only say a great deal about how we feel on issues but reveal our very character. I remember long ago reading the quote, “True character is revealed at what you do when you think no one is looking.” The same can be said about what we say when we think no one may repeat it. As much as I have loved and admired my grandparents, all of whom are deceased now except my Grandmother Feemster, I still recall a Saturday afternoon hearing my grandfather use a racial slur that sent chills down my spine. Perhaps such language may have been in the main stream and considered acceptable by some fifty years ago, but it was certainly not acceptable just a decade ago when I heard it.

Even more recently, in a private conversation with several business leaders, I heard the CEO of a very prominent organization use a similar expression. This individual, still in a significant leadership position today, has perhaps the brightest intellect, business acumen, communication skills, and education of anyone I know. Yet, my perception of this individual as a community and business leader will perhaps never be the same. This one instance altered forever my view of this person. It doesn’t mean that they are not a good person or that they cannot change. We all make mistakes and I have made many myself. However, it is absolutely mandatory that as community and business leaders we learn from our mistakes, so that we do not dare repeat them.

Our Chamber of Commerce has created a diversity program whose mission it is to support the diverse minority business community in the Greater Lake Norman region and create access through education, networking, and advancement opportunities. In short, we realize that we are stronger as a region because of the diverse population that calls Lake Norman home. We are not born bigots with natural discriminatory views. We learn them – we also teach them.

Meeting President Reagan in 1992

One of the highlights of my life was meeting and having lunch with President Ronald Reagan.  Regardless of your political views, most concede Reagan brought about a renewed patriotism and a sense of optimism to our country. Reagan once said, “It is not enough to be equal in the eyes of God. We must be equal in the eyes of each other.” Let us all pray that we begin to live out that principle. Much sooner than later.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , , | 1 Comment