Russell’s Ramblings

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

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.

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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

McDonald’s isn’t a hap, hap, happy place for the Food Gestapo

Ronald

To paraphrase the words of Ronald Wilson Reagan, “There they go again!”  Whether it’s the speech police or the antics of the Health Gestapo, the fast food fringe fanatics are winding up their little hysteria and this time have their sights set on none other than Ronald McDonald.  Yep, the loveable red haired clown has become Public Enemy #1 by the self appointed purveyors of public health.   Last week, representatives from the advocacy group Corporate Accountability International attended a shareholder’s meeting for McDonalds, and requested that poor Ronald be given his honorary gold watch.  They weren’t real sure how to package the golden arches. David Klinger, a retired Chicago physician represented the left winged loonies proclaiming “Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium, and calories.”

Kid you not!  I almost strangled on my Krispy Kreme donut reading this drivel in the newspaper. Klinger added, “On the surface Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games, and food.  But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people.”   You have to be kidding me!  I think Klinger and his battalion of bumpkins might actually be the dangerous ones.  I’m not sure if this dudes’ any relation to the MASH Klinger or not but he’s certainly well on his way to his own section eight.

Mr. Clean

I didn’t say anything when the urban legend got started about Mr. Clean.  I figure any guy running around dressed in all white sporting an earring in his left ear is probably asking for it. Nor did I shed a tear when the Health Gestapo went after Joe Camel and strung up his buddy the Marlboro Man.   Although I did get a little annoyed when they questioned whether the Lucky Charms elf really had magical powers. Certainly he does and his little charms are magically delicious – we all know that!

But I draw the line in the mustard when they go after Ronald.  Ronald McDonald is not just a fast food mascot or a nifty little branding icon.  To many children throughout the world, he is a symbol of hope when many face a world seemingly filled with hopelessness. His house, any Ronald McDonald House, is a place where the parents of children in a nearby hospital can stay for a reduced price or even a small donation.

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates.  The study showed that Ronald McDonald House was ranked as the 2nd “most popular charity/non-profit in America” of over 100 charities researched.
When I was president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) in 1992-1993, the Ronald McDonald House was one of the leading projects for which our Junior Chamber Chapters conducted fund raising projects.  Jaycees were, and still are, enthusiastic about raising funds for a charity in which 83 cents of every dollar is spent to fund programs globally. For nearly 35 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities have been creating, funding, and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well being of nearly four million children worldwide every year.

Last week, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner told the corporate accountability group to get a life. Well, maybe he didn’t say it in quite those terms.  But he did state when confronted by Klinger and his merry little band of dumb dwiddles, would McDonalds retire the 50-year old clown, “The answer is no.”  Good for you Skinner!   It’s time Corporate America stood up to these fringe groups. If I want to “Biggie Size it” get off my back. Quit trying to remove the calories from my Breyers Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream and lay off Tony the Tiger.   Better yet, take your greedy paws off my trans fats! Personally I think the whole world would be better with a little sweet iced tea, barbecue pork, and a few hush puppies on the side. Oh, and bring on the ‘nanna puddin’.

Now that I can rest easy that the world is again tilted back on its axis and the curmudgeons of crazy town are scampering back to the mushrooms from which they hide, I can get back to my rendezvous with Little Debbie.  We have a standing date every night at ten. And baby can she bake a mean oatmeal cake!

May 24, 2010 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Angels Walk Among Us

While our business community continues to be challenged by the current economy, there are some leading economic indicators pointing to very positive signs. It was also rewarding last month to see Cornelius ranked as #7 nationally as the “Best American Suburb” and Mooresville touted as the #1 Micropolitan community for new and expanding industry. Quite simply – it is good to be recognized as the Best of the Best.

In a week when the accolades poured, perhaps the one which made me feel best was from Sandy Tilley who runs the Angels & Sparrows Soup Kitchen in Huntersville. Sandy told our Kiwanis group that volunteers and contributions from area businesses has been in one word – “overwhelming.”

While it came as no surprise to me that Lake Norman was cited as the best place to live, work, and visit, I have to confess I was not aware that facing our current economic plight, benevolence was quite so high. Generosity is nothing new for our region. Just a few months ago we recognized Bruce Forest for his work with the Cornelius Animal Shelter. However, while Bruce was credited, and rightly so for his involvement, the credit also lies with the countless volunteers and donors who made that dream a reality.

I’m reminded about the story of the 8-year old boy that went to a pet store with his dad to buy a new puppy. The store manager showed them to a pen where five little furry balls gathered together. After a while, the boy noticed one of the litter all by itself in an adjacent pen. The boy asked why that puppy was all alone. The manager explained, “The puppy was born with a bad leg and will be crippled for life, “so we’re going to have to put him to sleep.” “You’re going to kill this little puppy?” the boy said sadly while patting it. The manager replied, “You don’t understand he’ll never be able to run and play with a boy like you.”

After a short conversation with his son, the dad told the store manager he and his son wanted to buy the puppy with a bad leg. “For the same money you can have any of the healthy ones. Why do you want this one?” inquired the manager. To answer the manager’s question, the child bent over and pulled up his pants on his right leg, exposing the brace underneath. “Mister, I want this one because I understand what he’s going through.”009_9

When there is so much about today we can lament – the climbing unemployment, lagging sales, uncertain futures – Lake Norman residents are still compassionate. We care as much about each other as we care about ourselves. It’s true that the worst of times often brings out the best in each other. It’s also true that when times seem the worst, Angels walk among us.

They work in soup kitchens, care for neglected strays, deliver meals on wheels, and volunteer with a church or civic club. You will not recognize them by the wings on their back or footprints in the sand but by the smiles on their face. They are God’s gift and a reminder we are never truly alone.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Social Causes | , , | Leave a comment

Second Chances

k0345992 When I was in grade school, I could not wait to get home, shed my school clothes and hit the court for a little basketball.  Whether it was a small pick up game or one-on-one, my afternoons were filled with a little round ball competition.  Occasionally it was a game of “around the world” taking shots from around the court with a miss resulting in the next player’s turn.  We always allowed a “second chance”.  Make the shot and you keep going, miss it, and you had to start over.

Later in life “second chances” were much rarer and harder to come by.  Blowing an assignment in college or getting a really bad grade on a test came with just a few second opportunities to pull that grade up.    After college, I entered the workforce as a salesman.  I sold office furniture and supplies.  Throughout my career, there were quite a few instances where I ordered the wrong paint color, the wrong finish, or the wrong fabric.  A mistake was made and usually another chance by my customer to get it right.

We’ve all been there – whether in our jobs or at home – “just one more chance, please…”  How many times have we hit our knees looking to the heavens and pleaded, “if only one more chance, one more shot…this is what I will do.”      There is a new organization at Lake Norman that deals with “second chances”.  Crossroads Reentry Ministry is a non-profit, tax deductible Christian organization that assists formerly incarcerated men successfully transition back into society.  Founder Jeff Cloud admits the idea of creating such an organization was inspired by so many inmates expressing their fears and hopes for when they were released from prison.  Some however, could not find employment or housing and turned to the only method of survival they knew – crime. good sam

This program assists those formerly incarcerated individuals supplying room and board, teaching life skills, and finding employment.  While there are many jobs that may not be well-suited for a former inmate, there are many more that are – particularly those which require labor and some degree of supervision and management.

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan who stopped to help the stranger in need.  There are those in our community who have hit rock bottom and second chances mean the difference between a productive life or serving life.    If you want to know more about this ministry, give me a call at the Chamber.  Whether it’s a job or a donation, the individuals at Crossroads could use your help.  For some of us second chances are just another shot.  For others, it may be the only shot they’ll ever really have.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Social Causes | , , , , | Leave a comment