On March 8, the Iredell Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Iredell Health System, held its inaugural International Women’s Day Breakfast in Mooresville. The funds raised from the event will support more than 75 women in the community who are struggling with the cost of breast screenings.
Upon arrival to the Charles Mack Citizen Center, more than 200 attendees were treated to breakfast before the program began. Susan Tolle, secretary of the Iredell Health Foundation, was first to take the stage and welcomed all attendees and shared what the day meant to her, noting that International Women’s Day “means everything to me. What it stands for has framed my career, it has framed my beliefs and it framed my value system in the workplace.”
Tolle talked about multiple women who completed lots of firsts, whether in politics or music or medicine and more.
“I could go on and on, she said. “You don’t have to look too far to find an amazing woman.”
Miles Atkins, Mooresville mayor and director of corporate affairs and government relations at Iredell Health System, spoke after Tolle, saying that it was “a great day to be here to look around in this room and see so many.”
Atkins said he was “really honored to be able to be in front of you today to read this proclamation from the town of Mooresville” after which he officially proclaimed March 8 as International Women’s Day for the Town of Mooresville.
The emcee for the event was four-time Emmy-award winner, Molly Grantham, anchor at WBTV News and accomplished author. Grantham spoke on empowering women and shared some of her own stories of balancing responsibilities as a career-driven woman and a devout mother of three.
Grantham shared that this was “a very cool event to have this first-time event here in Mooresville with Iredell Health and what a wonderful idea from the foundation,” but she reminded everyone that “it’s not just one day.” She said it’s not just a little bit of time, an hour, and not just one day, but “it’s a celebration. It’s a calendar day to say we are celebrating us,” and that we need to “shout out all our big wins because there are so many.”
Noting a phrase she often says, work-life balance, she told the crowd to throw it away. Balance she said, “means being even or 50-50, and life and work aren’t 50-50, but we often have to juggle work and other areas of life.
“We all have balls up in the air we have to juggle,” she said, “and some seasons of life, you have bigger balls you have to keep up in the air and other seasons of life you have to let a ball drop.”
Grantham concluded, as she told the group, that if they took one thing with them to remember that “it’s OK to let a ball drop, the world will move on, you will be OK, and we’re all in it together, not just today, every day, 365 days a year.”
Next to take the stage was Princess Thomas Williams, MD, who was the Women in Medicine speaker for the breakfast event, speaking on her role of supporting women as a breast surgeon and oncologist.
In her biography that was shared, it was noted that she is “a proud member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons as well as the Society of Surgical Oncology. She is also an initiate as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 2019, which is one of surgery’s highest honors. Dr. Princess Thomas Williams recently moved her private breast cancer practice to Mooresville, where she provides holistic breast cancer treatments at Breast Cancer Specialists of Carolina.”
Williams told the group that when asked at the age of 5 what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was “a doctor” and that is the reason why she was standing before them on this day.
While growing up in Columbus, Georgia, she said her mentor was a heart surgeon and she just knew this was the path she was going to take as well. This continued all through school and eventually she entered general fellowship at Mercy University, becoming the first African American female to enter the fellowship.
In her third year of the fellowship, Williams said she met a young women who was diagnosed with breast cancer during her pregnancy, and “that opened my eyes to the field” and she decided that “maybe, just maybe, I can really do this. Maybe I really can be a surgeon, but not just that, why not a breast surgeon.”
Williams said that women so often put themselves on the back burner, but that “self-care is extremely important so you can be the best version of yourself for your family, for my patients and for the world.”
She closed by sharing ways to take care of oneself, which includes mental health, counseling, physical health and spiritual health.
The keynote speaker for the International Women’s Day Breakfast was motivational speaker, author and Boston Marathon bombing survivor, Rebekah Gregory.
As she took to the stage, Gregory began telling her story, showing both her sense of humor and her heart and strength as she shared her detailed account of the bombing, her extensive recovery time following her left leg amputation, her inspiring story of training and running for a portion of the marathon, and her emotional experience in court addressing the bomber who nearly took her and her son’s life.
She began by saying that she was not there as an actual runner in the marathon that day, but she and her son were cheering on another that they had come to visit. She said they had enjoyed seeing the sights of the city — their first time there — and that they were on their last day there, watching as people were running across the finish line, accomplishing this huge goal.
Getting closer to the finish line to watch their runner cross, her young son was sitting on the ground playing at her feet. She said that was “exactly where my little boy was when a bomb in a backpack went off” very close to them.
“At this part in my story,” Gregory said, “what I want each of you to know is that I will never ever consider myself a victim of this day. I’m a survivor and I am proud to say that because my son was sitting on my feet, my body was able to act as a human shield for him and I took everything in the back of the legs, torso and left hand and that’s what saved his life. My son is a survivor, too.”
She related this to life and how things happen in our lives that change it forever and you wonder how you are going to go forward and what your life will look like.
And just like she did all that time in the hospital when she wondered how she was going to be able to do this for the rest of her life, she noted that things became clear.
“I had a choice, either to be so grateful just to be alive and count blessings or I could worry to death about problems that I can’t control.”
Gregory told the group that there are multiple definitions of success, including material possessions, reaching certain levels and if we do certain things. But to her, she said, “success is being able to sit in a room in total silence and be totally OK with where you’ve been, who you are and where you’re going. There is so much power in that. To accept life as it is. If we’re not ready to be willing to count our blessings, then we’re going to hinder our gratitude for what we’re living in right now.”
Gregory said she received her prosthetic leg on Jan. 7 and was determined to run in the Boston Marathon. After first standing on the leg, she realized that was tough and wondered how she would do anything, let alone run. She trained and got up to 16 miles and busted her leg open. Her doctor told her she could not run the marathon.
She did however, run the last 3.2 miles and shared that it wasn’t about the miles and it wasn’t about accomplishing this actual marathon, but it was about “going back to the place that nearly took my life. Running past the spot where everything changed.”
She said that testifying in court was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. It was following the trial that she was asked to return, along with others, to give a victim’s impact statement that she said she was able to look him in the eye and he looked back and she said, “I was asked to give a victims advocate statement, but in order to do that I would have to be someone’s victim and I’m not yours and I’m not your brother’s.”
Gregory concluded as she shared that there are more good people in the world than bad and “it’s our responsibility to be part of that good, to continue on and spread that to as many people as we can. I want to inspire at least one person each time I speak. I’m just one light and if I spread that light to just one, then they can shine that light to another and another, we will have no idea the magnitude of what our one light has done.
“As long as I am breathing I have purpose; as long as you are breathing, you have purpose,” she continued, “and you may not know what it looks like in your future, you may not know exactly what you’re supposed to do or where you’re supposed to go or the challenges that lay ahead, but I promise that our blessings outweigh our problems.”
After the program, attendees stayed for photos and book signings. Many attendees left with signed copies of Gregory’s, “Taking My Life Back,” and Grantham’s, “Small Victories” and “The Juggle is Real.”
The International Women’s Day Breakfast benefitted the foundation’s Women’s Health Fund for Iredell Health System. Proceeds will support qualifying women who cannot meet the financial obligation for health and preventive services, such as mammograms, ultrasounds and other diagnostic screenings.
“It was a wonderful morning in celebration of women, not only for this day but every day. The event will help break down the financial barriers for women seeking preventive services at Iredell,” said Jen Balog, executive director of the Iredell Health Foundation.
To learn more about the Iredell Health Foundation or to make a donation, go to IredellHealthFoundation.org, or call 704-878-7669. The next International Women’s Day Breakfast is March 6, 2024.
Staff reporter Karen Kistler contributed to this story.
RALEIGH — North Carolina’s Democratic governor released his state government spending plan on Wednesday that would increase spending by 20% over the next two years, double the increase favored by Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
Gov. Roy Cooper says the massive surge in spending is necessary to prepare citizens for future employment to recruit and retain teachers and state employees. The increase would be funded in part by halting already approved income tax decreases for corporations and the highest wage earners for upcoming years. There’s also a projected revenue surplus this year of over $3 billion.
“Once-in-a-generation opportunities require once-in-a-generation investments,” Cooper said at a news conference. “This budget we’re presenting today meets the moment.”
The governor’s proposed budget would give public school educators average salary raises of 18% through mid-2025 and 8% raises over two years to other school workers employees, along with bonuses of either $1,000 or $1,500 for all of these workers. State employees in hard-to-staff positions also could expect additional pay boosts. The raises are designed to address 5,000 teacher vacancies and those in state government, where vacancy rates are nearly double what they were before the pandemic.
North Carolina average teacher salaries currently rank near the bottom among Southeastern states. Cooper’s proposal would raise the base pay for first-year teachers from $37,000 today to $46,000 in fall 2024.
While Cooper’s budget proposal will get a formal review by legislators on Thursday, much of the plan is likely to be set aside by Republicans who control the General Assembly and have embraced across-the-board tax cuts as a major policy achievement.
Senate leader Phil Berger called Cooper’s budget “an irresponsible, unserious proposal from a lame-duck governor who wants future North Carolinians to pick up his tab.” Cooper is term-limited from seeking reelection in 2024.
“The General Assembly will continue on the fiscally responsible path that has made our state attractive to so many,” House Speaker Tim Moore added in a written statement.
Cooper’s office says his plan is fiscally sound, as $6.8 billion will remain earmarked for financial and disaster emergencies.
Cooper also wants to spend $4.5 billion to fund fully a court-mandated plan to address public school inequities stemming from longtime litigation known as Leandro, an early plaintiff. Republican legislators disagree on the size and scope of that education plan.
“The major focus of my budget is strengthening education with historic investments from cradle to career,” Cooper said, also mentioning hundred of millions of dollars budgeted for child care centers and to parents using them. “We can and should make good on the constitutional guarantee of a sound basic education to create opportunity for everybody.”
Since Republicans now hold a veto-proof majority in the Senate and are just one seat shy of a similar margin in the House, they have more leeway to fashion a plan with less spending and potentially more tax cuts, and can worry less about a Cooper veto.
House Republicans are aiming to pass its version of a two-year budget by early next month. The Senate will then approve its own bill, leading to negotiations to get a budget enacted before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The bottom line numbers alone offer a steep contrast.
House and Senate Republican leaders announced last week that they had agreed to spend no more $29.7 billion in the coming fiscal year, which is 6.5% above the current fiscal year’s budget. The amount would grow to $30.8 billion during the 2024-25 fiscal year, or another 3.75% increase.
Cooper’s plan, meanwhile, envisions spending almost $33 billion next year — an 18% increase, followed by $34.2 billion the following year, for an additional 3.9% increase.
As announced last week, the governor’s budget also would set aside $1 billion from the federal government’s sweetener to the state for accepting Medicaid expansion to beef up the state’s mental health services.
Legislators are within days of presenting to Cooper a bipartisan consensus bill to expand Medicaid to several hundred thousand low-income adults. Republicans have mentioned using the extra cash from Washington to fund mental health treatment.
Cooper’s budget proposal also would increase spending on community-based services for people with disabilities; set aside more matching funds needed to access federal grants; and improve workforce development and apprenticeship programs.
At its regularly scheduled meeting, the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education approved the administrative transfers of two principals and three district administrators.
Jill Parker has been named as the executive director of human resources. Parker has worked with Iredell-Statesville Schools for almost 20 years at South Iredell and Lake Norman high schools.
She most recently served as assistant principal at South Iredell High School. Parker previously taught high school band and chorus. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in executive leadership from Gardner-Webb University.
Kathy Walker will take on the new role of the academic extended support program coordinator.
Walker began her work with Iredell-Statesville Schools more than 20 years ago. She has served as a math teacher, an instructional facilitator, an assistant principal, and most recently the principal at East Iredell Middle School. Walker obtained her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Rutgers University. She went on to receive a master’s degree in executive leadership from Gardner-Webb University.
With the transition of Walker into her new role, Benjamin Johnson has been named the principal at East Iredell Middle School. No stranger to the school, Johnson currently serves as the co-principal. Beginning his career in 2002, Johnson has served as a social studies teacher, instructional facilitator, blended learning instructional facilitator, and assistant principal during his time with Iredell-Statesville Schools. Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Winston-Salem State University and a master’s degree in executive leadership from Gardner-Webb University.
Parker, Walker and Johnson began their new roles on March 13.
Bryan Paslay has been named the district athletic director. Paslay was hired in 1999 as a social studies teacher at West Iredell High School. He has served as an academic coordinator, the director of the freshman learning community, and most recently as the principal at Troutman Middle School. He also coached football at West Iredell High School for 11 years. Paslay holds a bachelor’s degree in history from UNC-Charlotte and a master’s degree in school administration from Gardner-Webb University.
Rebecca Wilbur will replace Paslay as the principal of Troutman Middle School. Wilbur has worked in Iredell-Statesville Schools since 1995. She has served as a teacher assistant, substitute teacher, teacher, assistant principal, Gear Up coach, interim principal and most recently as the director of the TSL and Gear Up grants. Wilbur holds an associate degree from Mitchell Community College, a bachelor’s degree in history from UNC-Charlotte, a master’s degree in school administration from Gardner-Webb University, and an advanced degree from Appalachian State University in educational leadership.
Paslay and Wilbur will begin their new roles effective Monday.