Great State Heroes event winners

Selected as the 2019 Great State Heroes on Tuesday were, left to right, Gretchen Barelski, education advancement; Fran Cantrell, health improvement; Devin Lyall, crisis intervention; and Hailey Hogan, future generations.

“Making a Difference with Your Dash,” (time between birth and death) was the theme of the 2019 Great State Heroes event, held Tuesday night at the Stone Center in North Wilkesboro.

The annual dinner and awards program, organized by the United Way of Wilkes, honors individuals for their selflessness in the areas of crisis intervention, health improvement, education advancement and future generations. Skyline National Bank was event sponsor.

Guest speaker Cameron Kent, who retired from WXII TV after 32 years and is now an author, said in early life, people ask the question, “What do you do?” Later in life, people are asked, “What did you do with your time (to help others)?” The Great State Heroes, all said “yes” and ‘stepped up to the plate,” Kent said.

Kent encouraged the audience to question themselves about how they are spending their time and to try to figure out what they are passionate about. Everyone has something to offer, he said.

Craig Langston, 2019/2020 campaign chair, echoed Kent and said the audience should, “Make a difference with your dash.” Langston said the Great State Heroes event officially kicks off the 2019/20 United Way campaign. The goal is to raise $500,000 to assist 20 partner agencies.

WKBC radio personality Steve Handy emceed the presentation of awards.

Winning the award for crisis intervention was Devin Lyall, executive director of Wilkes Recovery Revolution, which she helped found.  Other nominees were Dodie Maxted of Samaritan Kitchen and Rachel Minick of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. Lyall said she wanted to create a community (in Wilkes) where recovery is possible. “I want to support the community that supported me,” she said. Wilkes Recovery Revolution encompasses Phases Transitional Housing, Hope Warriors and Revolution Thrift Shop. Leondard G. Herring Family Foundation sponsored the award.

Fran Cantrell won the award for health improvement. Other nominees were Curtis Lomax (posthumously) with Our House and Mary Tevepaugh of Senior Home Companions. Cantrell volunteers with Wilkes Senior Resources and works as a counselor with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. She helps people who are on Medicare figure out the system. Cantrell is a retired nurse from the Wilkes County School system. Cantrell told the audience, “We all can take time to help others.” Anonymous, “In honor of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,” sponsored the award.

Gretchen Barelski won the award for education advancement. Other nominees were Betty Thompson of Wilkes Community College and lifelong educator Dr. Alexander Erwin. Following her 30-year career as a school psychologist, Barelski has held positions on local boards and in her church. She is involved with Wilkes Circles of Care, Relay for Life, HOPE Ministries, SAFE and the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. Barelski said she had been an educator all her adult life, working primarily with pre-school children. Her mission has always been, “How can I help this child succeed?” Wake Forest Baptist Health-Wilkes Medical Center sponsored the award.

Wilkes Early College High School “Super Senior” Hailey Hogan was selected for future generations. Other nominees were David Webster a senior at Wilkes Central High School who volunteers with Homework Haven at La Escuela and Hannah Miller who volunteers with Samaritan Kitchen, a suicide prevention program and the Youth Service Opportunity Program.

Hogan has been volunteering with Communities In Schools (CIS) since she was selected as a sixth-grader. She has been a leader in blood drives, fundraisers and other events. Hogan tearfully thanked CIS for “taking a chance on me,” and said she hopes to continue volunteering. McNeill Nissan of Wilkes was the award sponsor.

Entertainment was provided by Larry Skipper and two of his students in the 12 Note Map Program, Eva Scott, a fourth-grader at Wilkesboro Elementary on the mandolin, and Libby Harbour, an eighth-grader at West Wilkes Middle School, on the fiddle.

The 12 Note Map is beginning its fourth year and serves six schools in Wilkes. Its mission is to bring the opportunity for local students to engage in music in an after-hours setting.  Skipper said he wanted to bring traditional Appalachian music into the schools.

Pianist Alicia Stone provided dinner music. Clara Hickman, United Way executive director, gave door prizes and announced silent auction winners.

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