Dec 2015

Defying the Odds

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Harry Jones finds peace in his battle with pancreatic cancer

You may remember Harry Jones as the combative former county manager who was unceremoniously kicked out of his job two years ago by the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. His quiet reaction to the event may have seemed uncharacteristic to some. “I was at peace. I felt good at where I was in my life,” he says. “I wasn’t fired. I was freed.”

But people close to him had begun to notice a change. In fact Jones had recently experienced a turning point in his life that put the end cap to his long public service career into a different perspective. In December of 2011, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease. Three-quarters of people with the cancer die within the first year of diagnosis and only seven percent reach the five-year survival mark.

That’s because pancreatic cancer is hardly ever detected before it’s in an advanced stage. Due to the cancer’s stealth nature, a bad case of acid reflux was Jones’ only indication that something was amiss. “It started about six or seven months before my diagnosis,” he says. “I felt discomfort in my sternum. I noticed that whenever I ate, I had a little difficulty swallowing.” His doctor put him acid-blocking medications and Jones started drinking smoothies for lunch instead of burgers and fries.

Jones eventually noticed other changes in his gastrointestinal system. He would experience the urge to move his bowels, but when he got to the bathroom he would only expel gas.

“I liken pancreatic cancer to a virus in your computer,” Jones says. “You notice that computer is slowing down. Meanwhile the Trojan horse is working its way into your files. One day it zaps you.”

The problem is there are no early detection tools. “There’s no blood test the doctor could give me, nothing like a mammogram for breast cancer or the PSA for prostate cancer,” Jones says. “There’s no easy way to detect it.”

As time went on, Jones began to feel that something was terribly wrong and called his doctor. “I said ‘I want a test today and I don’t care if I have to mortgage the house to pay for it,’” he says. Imaging tests revealed he had a three-centimeter tumor (a little longer than an inch) on the tail of his pancreas, the small gland located deep in the abdomen that produces digestive enzymes and the hormones that regulate blood sugar.

Additional tests confirmed that it was inoperable stage IV cancer that had spread to his liver. Jones wasn’t expected to live for more than a few months. The diagnosis led him to Reza Nazemzadeh, MD, an oncologist with Carolinas Health Care’s Levine Cancer Institute, who started Jones on a grueling regimen of chemotherapy.

Letting go of fear
But even before drugs had a chance to target his tumor, Jones was beginning to experience a profound shift. He says the diagnosis sparked within him a deep spiritual transformation.

On Christmas Eve, as he was walking his dog and contemplating the challenging months ahead, Jones says, he found himself reciting a Bible verse he’d learned as a teenager, Mark 11:22.

“Have faith in God,” the scripture reads, “for verily I say unto you that whosoever shall say unto the mountains be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea and whosoever believes in his heart and shall not doubt shall have whatsoever he asks. And whatever things you ask for, when you pray believe that you receive them and they shall be yours.”

“As I walked, reciting those words repeatedly, I began to feel something different stirring inside of me. The stress and anxiety I had been feeling since receiving my diagnosis two days earlier disappeared. I felt my burden being lifted,” Jones recalled in his recently published book, How Cancer Cured My Soul, which chronicles his journey. “On that day, my death sentence was commuted to a life sentence. I stopped thinking about dying and began to focus on living.”

A few days later Jones started receiving a 48-hour chemotherapy infusion requiring the use of a mobile pump every two weeks. Luckily he never experienced the nausea typical of the treatment. But he couldn’t avoid the crushing tiredness the chemo brought on. ‘The second day is fatigue,” he says. “You just kind of hit the wall and you know you need to rest.”

Still Jones weathered the regimen relatively well and he was able to work while wearing the pump. The medications began to help, blasting back the cancer cells on his pancreas and liver.

By last May, his doctors revised their earlier treatment plan. The spots on his liver had cleared up and other tests confirmed that he had no cancer in his body. Jones was no longer considered to have metastatic disease and was able to have surgery to remove part of his pancreas and his spleen. He continues to receive chemotherapy but less frequently than before. “We’ll continue to monitor it to prevent a recurrence,” he says.

Taking a new path
Meanwhile Jones’ spiritual focus is even sharper. He is frequently asked to speak about his experience at prayer breakfasts and other events and he can often be found behind the pulpit of local churches. “I’m able to tell the spiritual side of my journey,” he says. “I feel more loving and giving, more joyful and peaceful.”

“My days are very different now,” Jones muses. “I look at the beauty of the world in a better way. I see things I used to not see because I was in too big a hurry. For years, I would walk downtown and never noticed the many water fountains that adorn the landscape. Now I take a seat and listen to the whirl of the water. It represents calm and peace for me. I see God’s creation in the mirror of the water.”

Jones seems to be closer than ever to his family and a widening circle of friends, many of who have sought him out for comfort and advice. “I’m in touch with people all over the country who I’ve never met in the flesh, referred to me by others,” he says. “They inspire me as much as I hope I inspire them.”

Jones hopes to reach many more through his book, a slim self-published paperback with a powerful message. “I hope it is a source of inspiration and hope, not just for people with cancer but those facing any kind of calamity, obstacle or burden in life,” he says. “I hope I can give them insight into how to overcome it.”

Jones’ battle has brought him into close to other pancreatic cancer patients, many of whom have passed away, such as Neil Cooksey, who served on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners until his death from the disease in 2012.

Jones also uses his voice to advocate for pancreatic cancer research and raise awareness of the disease and its risk factors. “Pancreatic cancer is on track to be the deadliest cancer,” he says. While many cancers have seen vast improvements in the rates of detection and treatment, pancreatic cancer lags far behind. “Overall survival rates have not changed appreciably in the last 40 years,” he says. “And pancreatic cancer gets only two percent of research dollars.”

The cancer gets less airplay because it lacks an army of survivors to push the agenda forward, Jones notes. “People know less about it because patients don’t live with it very long. There are no faces associated with the disease that you can put on posters or on TV to talk about it,” he says. “You need people like me and others who know of the dire need to help organizations like the Pancreatic Cancer Network raise funds for research to improve detection and treatment.”

In addition to speaking about how his faith has sustained him, Jones also delivers a powerful health message: to tune in to your own body and listen to what it is telling you. “It’s something I have to do everyday: remind people to ‘know your body,’” he says. “If I hadn’t known my body, if I hadn’t taken the initiative to say ‘Something is wrong and I want a test today,’ I’m not sure how things would have turned out.”

“One of the things I have had to come to grips with is understanding that we all have an unknown future,” Jones says. “We don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. You can let cancer beat you or you can decide to beat it. Stuart Scott (the ESPN anchor who recently died of cancer) said, ‘You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.’ Even if I die from this, I will not be a beaten person.”

Join the Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer
Almost 50,000 Americans are expected to die from pancreatic cancer in 2015, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (Pancan.org). Unlike breast, colon, prostate and a few other cancers, which may be cured or at least managed like a chronic disease, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is for most a death sentence. Only seven percent of people diagnosed with the disease will survive five years or longer.

“Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death,” says Mark Weber, a volunteer for the organization whose mother and father-in-law both died from the disease. “Within the next five years it’s expected to be the number two leading cause of death. The trend needs to stop. We have to do something.” This year the network launched PurpleStride (www.purplestride.org), a series of events across the country to raise awareness as well as funds to advance research to come up with better diagnostic tools and treatments.

In September, Panthers Coach Ron Rivera, whose brother, Mickey, died after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer in July, served as honorary starter for the PurpleStride Charlotte 5K timed run and walk. The event raised $260,000 for pancreatic cancer research, “tens of thousands more than we anticipated,” Rivera says. “We had a phenomenal turnout.”

But much more is needed. “We are beginning to learn more about the disease,” Rivera says. “There’s an increased awareness that it is survivable. It’s just a matter of early detection. We have to catch it early.”

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms and Risk Factors
One reason pancreatic cancer is so hard to detect is that symptoms, when present, are often vague and mimic those of other disorders. These symptoms are frequently reported by people diagnosed with the cancer:
Ascites, the abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity
Changes in stools, such as diarrhea or constipation
Digestive difficulties, including the loss of appetite, indigestion and nausea
Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes
New onset diabetes in people over the age of 50
Pain in the abdomen and/or back
Significant unexplained weight loss

Risk Factors
Chronic and hereditary pancreatitis
Family history: 2-3 times increased risk if a first-degree relative is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
Long-standing (over 5 years) diabetes
Smoking: associated with 20-30% of all pancreatic cancer cases.

Having the symptoms or risk factors does not mean you have or will get cancer. Talk to your doctor about any concerns.

Honoring Charlotte’s Young Philanthropists

This fall we asked local nonprofits, which young people in the community were having measurable impact on their organizations? We had an overwhelming response with nominations of tireless volunteers, invaluable fundraisers, and critical donors. Here, we honor some of the most stand out players in philanthropy.

Amy Levine Dawson and Alfred Dawson

“Alfred and Amy have emerged as extraordinary advocates for children’s health in our community. Amy serves on the Board of Ambassadors for Levine Children’s Hospital. In addition, the young couple is active in the Dreamcatcher Society, a fundraising group whose members commit to annual gifts over five years to support programs and resources at Levine Children’s Hospital. Further, the Dawsons served on the planning committee for the highly successful Levine Children’s Gala in 2015.

In 2013, the Dawsons demonstrated significant support for LCH with a $100,000 commitment to the hospital’s Seacrest Studios, a state- of-the-art radio studio in the Levine Children’s Hospital atrium. Subsequently, in 2014, the Dawsons joined Amy’s siblings and parents in making a collective $3 million gift to create the Mindy Ellen Levine Behavioral Health Center in Davidson, named in memory of Amy’s sister.

Alfred and Amy continue to uphold the Levine family’s legacy of philanthropy through their dedication to healthcare services in the greater Charlotte community.”

Carolinas Healthcare Foundation

Anne Brady Carlson

“Anne Brady has been both a dedicated contributor both financially and as a volunteer. She was one of the co-chairs for the 2015 BBQ & Blue Jeans and supported the 2014 committee.  Anne Brady has had a passion for philanthropy having grown up in a generous home that encouraged giving from a young age.  She supports several agencies across the Carolinas.  Pat’s Place feels fortunate to not only have the financial support of Anne Brady and Jeff Carlson, but the time she has dedicated to the organization has been invaluable.  Anne Brady has pulled in many new young faces that have contributed their time and effort over the course of this year to help us to raise funds and spread awareness of child sexual abuse in Mecklenburg County.”

– Pat’s Place

Brandon Neal

“Brandon has been involved at the Bechtler since 2012 when he joined the board as an apprentice through the Arts and Science Council’s Cultural Leadership Training (CLT) program.  During that time, board leadership recognized his enthusiasm and wisdom, so the following year, he was invited to become a full board member.  In 2013-2014, Brandon spearheaded and became the first chair of the Bechtler Young Visionaries, whose mission is to cultivate the next generation of visual art patrons by connecting young professionals with the museum and with others who are interested in modern art. 
In 2014-2015, Brandon accepted the role of co-chair of the Bechtler’s Firebird Society (Bechtler members making annual gifts of $1k to 2,499).  Due in large part to his leadership, membership in this group doubled last year and is continuing to grow.  Most recently, Brandon agreed to become vice-chair of the Bechtler’s Nominating and Governance Committee of the board. 

He is a very genuine and compelling role model. We have many wonderful younger, committed supporters here.  But really, there has never been anyone like Brandon.”

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Grace Daniels

“People contact us all the time about ideas for fundraisers that will raise money for Charlotte Rescue Mission. We are always so grateful for any amount raised, and love the hearts of these folks. So when 11 year old Grace Daniels contacted us this year about holding a swim-a-thon to benefit the mission, I said “of course!” but never really expected much.  Well, clearly I didn’t know Grace Daniels very well!  Her little swim-a-thon turned into an amazing event called Laps for Love.  The first one, just a few weeks ago, raised over $5,000 for the mission.  We were simply blown away.  And Grace isn’t done – she has another event planned this fall and she’s unstoppable. 

She has an incredible heart for helping people in crisis, a strong work ethic, and she’s learned a lot about the business side of fundraising – from event planning, to marketing, to sponsorships.  She’s even worked out a partnership with Diamond Springs Water to promote her next event.  I guarantee she is the face of philanthropy for the next generation of young people in Charlotte!”

Charlotte Rescue Mission

Josh Jones

“Josh has been a participant in 24 Hours of Booty since 2013 and combined has raised over $81,600 for our organization. Josh captains Team LIBStrong in memory of his four year old daughter, Libby, who passed away from cancer in May 2014. He has used his story to bring more riders and funds to our organization, pediatric cancer awareness and has inspired parents of other pediatric cancer patients to join him in the fight at 24 Hours of Booty.

His team partnered with three other top teams to host Pink to Drink, a one night event that raised over $16,000, they helped organize a Kendra Scott fundraising night and have hosted blood drives in Libby's honor. He is truly one in a million!”

24 Hours of Booty

Tanisha Myers

“Tanisha has made a significant contribution to the American Heart Association’s Greater Charlotte Heart Walk by leading the 2015 campaign for Wells Fargo.  Tanisha began with a vision to create a new and exciting experience for the 20,000+ Wells Fargo employees in the Greater Charlotte area – she kicked off the campaign with a perfectly executed flash mob, the first ever for the Heart Walk, to engage employees and begin sharing the importance of heart health.  Directing a cabinet of over 70 senior leaders at Wells Fargo, Tanisha was able to recruit more than 270 team captains who recruited over 4,000 walkers to join the Heart Walk campaign and raise more than $200,000 to fund the mission of the American Heart Association. 
This year’s Heart Walk, held on September 19th, had a net income of $1,700,000 with more than 15,000 participants, the largest Heart Walk in both people and revenue in Charlotte’s history.  Wells Fargo’s participation was critical to the record-setting success, thanks in large part to Tanisha’s leadership.”  

American Heart Association

Whitney Feld

"Whitney Feld is a vibrant young philanthropist with a unique drive, passion and commitment to support the arts in Charlotte. This year, she was elected president of our Affiliate Council meaning she has the responsibility of representing the interests of all SEVEN of the Mint’s affiliate groups! As a docent, President of the Young Affiliates of the Mint, and Affiliate Council President of The Mint Museum, she continues to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure long term awareness, sustainability, and support of North Carolina's first art museum, thus helping the museum achieve greater impact as a driver of the cultural economy.”

- Mint Museum 

Honorable Mentions

Tyler and Alec Covington
HopeWay Foundation

Katie Lee
24 Hours of Booty

Jessica Herbin
Mental Health America of Central Carolinas

Kara and Greg Olsen
Carolinas Healthcare Foundation

Jon Carroll
Hope Haven

Mary Louise Wilson
Council for Children’s Rights

Isuru Wijesundara
Jason Daniels

Sharla Collins
Monika Markley
Classroom Central

Leah Robertson
Humane Society of Charlotte

Solomon Franklin
100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte

Spencer Sowell
JDRF Greater Western Carolinas

Jace Hunter
Lupus Foundation of America, North Carolina Chapter

Felix Sabates Gives His Views on Philanthropy

As we salute our young philanthropist honorees, we decided to sit down and talk with the man whose name has become as synonymous with philanthropy as it has with cars.

On his charitable passions….

While his Mercedes Benz dealership contributes to a great deal of charities around town, when it comes to Felix’s personal philanthropic work, there are only two causes he supports.

“I don’t give money unless it’s something that is related to children or sick people,” he says.

Perhaps it’s the decades he has spent on the board of Carolinas Healthcare System that has made him so passionate about caring for the sick.

“I’ve seen that hospital grow from 1600 to 60,000 employees,” says Felix of his time with CHS. “People don’t appreciate what a hospital like that does. They take care of the indigent. If you have a heart attack and you’re poor, they’ll take care of you for free.”

In addition to his considerable support to the Carolinas Healthcare Foundation, Levine Children’s Hospital, and prostate cancer research, Felix has also been a large supporter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness after a personal friend fell victim to retinitis pigmentosa. This year, the local chapter honored him along with Ron Rivera for their influence and leadership in the philanthropic community.

But it’s children that Felix seems to be most ignited about.

“Our future in this country are those kids today,” says Felix. “Our country is pretty screwed up right now and divided. I’m very proud to be an American, I’ve been here 55 years, but I have seen the deterioration of values in this country.”

It’s his hope that by giving his support to the right organizations serving children, he can in turn help strengthen their future and thus, our country’s.

The organizations that have been touched the most by Felix’s support have likely been the Broward County Boys and Girls Club and the Allegro Foundation. Over the last 27 years, Felix has donated millions to the Boys and Girls Club in Miami and attends their fundraising events every year. He has sustained his support because he has been able to see the impact the organization has on the 15,000 kids it serves.

“You have to get these kids off the streets,” says Felix of the after school programs.

Locally, Felix has given his support to the Allegro Foundation ever since his daughter, Mimi insisted he become involved. He has been impressed by the organization’s ability to help so many children with special needs, while keeping a small staff. He notes that because the organization receives no government or United Way funds, he has been happy to sustain his support over the years.

This past January, the Allegro Foundation honored Felix at their annual Ambassador’s Ball for his decade of support to the organization.

On his philanthropic strategy….

Not surprisingly, because of his reputation of generosity, Felix is not short on charitable requests.

“I get hit from every single direction,” he says. While that is undoubtedly the case, you can sense that this is not a source of irritation for him, but rather a calling he’s grateful to have the means to answer.

In the past, Felix says he focused on giving large sums to fewer organizations. Many of those recipients were large organizations and educational institutions. But now, his intention is to do the reverse.

“I want to spread it out,” he says. “Instead of focusing on 4 or 5 big ones, I’m giving to 20 smaller organizations.”

When it comes to sustaining his support year after year, it tends to be a matter of heart.

“Sometimes you have to decide that you’re going to give X amount to an organization and once you do, you move on,” he explains. “If it’s one that is really close to your heart, you keep giving, but sometimes I start to cut it back. I don’t completely discontinue giving them money, but I want to spread it.”

“That’s why I love Sandra and Leon,” he chuckles, noting their similar philosophy of spreading giving around. “You never know who the Levines are going to write a check to.”

On the importance of financial stewardship….

Like most philanthropists, if Felix is going to offer his financial support, it’s important to him that the money is going to support the cause, not the people running it. In short, he likes to give to organizations where the impact is profound and the staff is lean.

“I look at administration. It’s important to me to see where the money is going,” said Felix. “It amazes me what the CHS Foundation is able to do because they don’t have that many people,” he notes as an example.

And it seems that where the money is going is a big factor on whether he continues to be a supporter or not.

“I’ve asked Al de Molina, who is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met, to look at Allegro’s finances. This guy can dig into anything. He said, Felix, they’re doing a great job because they’re doing the best with what they’ve got and they have a very small staff.”

“Each person there does the work of three people,” said Felix.

“But I ask questions,” he continued. “There are some organizations with too many loose ends. I gave to one this year, but I won’t be giving again.”

Another organization that has impressed him with their ability to do a lot with a little is B.R.A.K.E.S. which teaches defensive driving to teenagers in hopes of saving lives lost in teenage auto accidents.

“Those people work their butt off and they don’t make anything,” says Felix. “I don’t mind giving to an organization like that because I know they don’t have a bunch of fat cats living up high.”

On the future of philanthropy in Charlotte…

It might feel morbid, but Felix is very clear about the future challenges of local philanthropy.

“For whatever reason, good, bad, or indifferent – since I’ve been here it has been the same group that gives out all the money. And we are dying. You got to replace those guys. That’s the biggest challenge going forward.”

“The new generation doesn’t have the money that the old generation had,” he continues, “and as the old generation passes away, where is the money going to come from?”

Then there are those who are leaving their money behind. Felix has established a foundation that will take effect when he dies. Managed by U.S. Trust, his children will have sole discretion over which charitable organizations will be benefactors. It’s a model similar to what Torrey Hemby, who Felix says was “the most generous guy on the face of this earth,” set up with his daughters.

“I’m a perfect example of (this challenge). I know where my money goes and when I die I know my kids are taking over. Maybe they want to make a name for themselves and don’t want to give money to who I was giving money to anymore. I can’t manage from the grave.”

“Young people love to go to the parties, wear the gowns. When I was younger I went to all of them - $1,000 for the association of unwed dogs? I was there. Now I only go to three or four a year.”

Local Community Issue most on your radar…. 

There is a crisis of small local businesses being pushed out for new development that will have a devastating effect on the uniqueness of Charlotte and hence our quality of life. This problem also contributes to income inequality. I have started and owned many successful businesses in Charlotte when the barriers to entry were lower. Some of the most creative entrepreneurs we have today are shut out of creating their own businesses.  I have some sexy, innovative designs for shopping districts that can address this and create new, unique retail that is affordable. This problem dovetails with my second biggest concern of affordable housing. I am excited to be moving on this issue! 

Broader national/international issue most on your radar….

Rising racism, bigotry and xenophobia. History shows us politicians exploit the divide between groups of people to stir up hatred and win popular vote. Diversity makes our city richer!

Local non-profit you would drop everything to help…

Anything Shannon Binns with Sustain Charlotte would ask!  What is more important than clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and a clean healthy food chain that does not strain the environment? Sustain Charlotte brings these issue up at all the important conversations and helps guide our city to make sustainable choices for smart growth. 

Best party/event you’ve been to in the last year….

 Charlotte Pride this year was the best weekend I can remember ever spending in Charlotte! I think this is going to become the city's signature event that will be enjoyed by everyone, not just the LGBT community, the way it is in many of the worlds great cities. We were just in Iceland for Reykjavik Pride and close to a third of the entire country turns out for Pride.

Recent splurge purchase you treated yourself to….

A new outfit by J. Lindeberg from Revolution Clothing on East Blvd. I'm actually wearing it in the pictures Jeff took of me...and my new Cole-Haan Oxfords with a sneaker sole.  

Charlottean you’d like to see run for Mayor one day….

 Tom Warshauer, Community & Commerce Manager in the City’s Neighborhood & Business Services Department has been working tirelessly to help the entire city move forward and not just the hot areas. There is enough opportunity to make all our neighborhoods vibrant and more livable and I think Tom could move us that way. We will have to draft him one day! 

Charlottean who should be given a reality show.

My most colorful and loving friend, Johnny Johnson. A true gentleman and Southerner,  he regularly Grand Marshalls in parades. He has some amazing Easter Bonnets too!  

Best meal you’ve had in a while….

a 5 course vegan farm-to-table meal at Heirloom by Chef Clark Barlowe and drinks and wine by his Head Bartender Kel Minton.  They source everything from a 200 mile radius including the wines and liquors. An amazing experience everytime I dine there or have cocktails. 

Advice you’d give your younger self…  

Don't let your ambitions for the future overshadow living in the present and do yoga regularly. 

The Choir School at St. Peter’s, Opera Carolina, CPCC Early Music, and the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra collaborate for Noah’s Flood

"Opera has something for every one," Opera Carolina Principal Conductor James Meena has often said.

In an exciting collaboration with CPCC Early Music and the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra, The Choir School at St. Peters and Opera Carolina bring to life Benjamin Britten’s one-act opera Noah’s Flood (Noye’s Fludde), which was written to be staged in churches and performed primarily by children. The four performances at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (115 W. Seventh St.) will kick off The Choir School’s 23rd season.

“Noah’s Flood is part of our ongoing Street Opera program, which takes opera performances out of the Belk Theater and into the community,” Meena continued. “Collaborations across the community are key to Opera Carolina’s business plan, and we’re thrilled to be part of this project with the Choir School, CPCC and the Youth Symphony.”

Audiences will also get to participate in the music making. Church hymns are part of the score, and audience members are invited to sing along with the Opera Carolina cast and Choir School singers.

It will be special for cast members, too. There will be a lot of them – both professional, semi-professional, novices and students. And all of the animal roles (and there were many animals – all arriving two by two – aboard Noah’s ark) are played by young people.

“It’s a great experience for us to work with Opera Carolina, CSYO and the fine musicians of the CPCC Early Music Ensemble,” said Ben Outen, Artistic Director of The Choir School. “The sanctuary of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is a beautiful space and we’re excited to bring this collaborative production to our core audience and – we hope – an entirely new audience, as well.”

Performances are on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Ben Outen will conduct all four performances.

General admission tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Doors open 30 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets can be purchased through the Performing Arts Center Box Office at 704.372.1000 or via operacarolina.org.

This month we lose adopted local and hailed event planner, Mary Tribble, as she moves on to her new home in Winston Salem. If you’ve been to more than two charitable events in the last 30 years, no doubt you’ve seen her mark. As we bid her farewell, we give her the last word.

Local Community issue most on your radar….
I'm deeply concerned about the marginalization of citizens in our communities, both locally and nationally. I applaud leaders like Dianne English with the Community Building Initiative who continue to look for solutions around equity. As I begin my transition to Winston-Salem, childhood hunger will be a focus. Food insecurity in Forsyth County ranks in the top ten in the country. I'm looking forward to helping promote Wake Forest University's efforts to address this problem.

Broader national/international issue most on your radar….
Radicalization and polarization at all levels. I think in some ways, it's unavoidable that as the country's demographics change, we'll continue to feel more apart before we come together. I am hopeful that time, along with reasoned dialogue, will create positive change. The reasoned dialogue can sometimes be drowned out by the rhetoric of the fearful, but it's there if you listen. And it's our responsibility to call it out. 

Local non-profit you would drop everything to help…
The Jamie Kimble Foundation for Courage, whose mission is to create a future without domestic violence. It was established by Ron and Jan Kimble in response to the senseless murder of their daughter Jamie by her estranged boyfriend. It's such a tragic story, yet Ron and Jan have responded with grace and determination.

Best party/event you’ve been to in the last year….
Closing night with my group in Bali in June: a long, white table under the stars, decorated in fresh hydrangeas, surrounded by parasols, overlooking an ancient temple at the sea's edge.

Recent splurge purchase you treated yourself to….
I'm in more of a "purge" rather than "splurge" time of my life.  However, I do pay homage to the shopping gods when I travel. Most recently, I bought a beautiful hand-woven sarong by a local woman I met in Sudaji, Bali. A friend there has been providing training for village women to revive the lost craft and provide economic stability for their families.

Charlottean you’d like to see run for Mayor one day….
Ad guy and best buddy Charlie Elberson. In a time when we seem to have forgotten what "authentic" really means, Charlie's the real deal. He's smart, funny, heart-centered, and makes you feel like you're the most important person in the room. (Others can do that, but Charlie really means it.) He'd want nothing to do with the job, of course, but I bet he'd run a pretty clever campaign. 

Charlottean who should be given a reality show…
I'd put together an ensemble cast to include my some of my funniest Facebook-posting friends, like marketing geniuses Tracy Russ and Candice Langston, uber-designer Jill Seale and writer Page Leggett. As Facebook's first live-stream television show, it would feature the zany cast's antics of daily life, punctuated by their snarky interpretations of the day's news.  

Best meal you’ve had in a while….
Lang Van Vietnamese. Always. I'm trying to see how many times I can eat there before I move. 

Advice you’d give your younger self…
Girl, chill. You don't have to do it all at once. Your job doesn't define you. Don't let another person's opinion cut you. Lucite awards won't bring you happiness. It's not about being nice, it's about being kind. Go for more walks with your girlfriends. See the person sitting across from you. Take ten long, deep breaths before you hit send. If you have to contemplate an outfit in the mirror more than twice, don't wear it.

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