North Carolina's New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force Marks First Year


New Hanover Resiliency Task Force Chairman Scott Whisnant thanks Executive Director Mebane Boyd for her leadership, and his "Resilient Vision Award." 

The July 27, 2019 meeting of the New Hanover Resiliency Task Force marked the first year of the group’s work since hiring a coordinator, but the gag gifts handed out in celebration told the real story of the community building, affection, and joy experienced in the members’ work together.

Scott New Hanover County’s Chief Planning Officer, Beth Schrader, shared a draft of the strategic plan the group had been working on for a year. The Task Force reviewed highlights of a year of intense work – including helping county citizens recover from Hurricane Florence. And then the fun began, as Task Force Executive Director Mebane Boyd started handing out gifts, ultimately including something for everyone – about 70 people in all.

IMG_1212There was bubble wrap to pop as a stress-reliever for members Lori Wainwright and Shelly Harney, who’d worked tirelessly on juvenile justice programs. Cliff Barnett was honored with a Snickers bar for making the group laugh. Beth Schrader received Smarties candy for leading the strategic planning. A 100 Grand candy bar went to Louise Hicks, who’d helped secure funding to keep an executive director on board for two years. And a bag of Halloween eyeballs, the Resilient Vision Award, went to Task Force Chairman Scott Whisnant.

IMG_1222Applause from fellow Task Force members showed the enthusiasm and warm regard this group has built in a year’s time under Boyd’s leadership. Boyd made sure the celebration included a cake decorated with the group’s symbol — a starfish, because their legs can regenerate after breaking off. She also made sure everyone who wanted one received a token gift to mark the date: a Carolina-blue ribbon adorned with a tiny gold starfish. 58576659384__1D4658E1-340D-49F0-BD33-48D572750F26

 As one of approximately 300 ACEs Connection community managers, Boyd seems to naturally embody the qualities so important to an ACEs initiative’s success. She is inclusive, quick to thank volunteers, attentive to the big picture of overall objectives, while at the same time being attentive to details. She is not afraid to ask for help or resources. She makes sure meetings are regular, well-run, involve reports from several members, and that they end on time.  

“I've been working in nonprofits in Wilmington since 1992. I knew we needed a group that was open, inclusive, and as transparent as we knew how to be. I knew we needed to work on diversity, and though we still have a long way to go, we’ve begun to attract more people of color to our meetings. A year later, we’re at more than 500 individual members,” said Boyd.

Resilience Documentary was the Beginning

 A viewing of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope, in January, 2018, started Boyd’s association with what would become the New Hanover Resiliency Task Force.

 “We screened the documentary at the New Hanover County office of Smart Start, a local affiliate of North Carolina's early childhood initiative, where I was working. The people in the room – there were about eight elected officials – said it was time to stop talking about doing something about preventing trauma and building resilience. Scott Whisnant, with the local regional hospital, wrote the grant to help fund the coordinator position.  

“It’s been good to hear from so many community members speaking through the ‘ACEs lens’ of how the science and the learning touches the areas we’re concentrating on for the community: better health, less violence, few or no racial disparities, health, education, and justice outcomes, strong education, positive workplaces, becoming a ‘resources rich community,’ supporting individual and family resiliency,” said Boyd. 

 “We know some of the things we are working on can and will make a difference in how we deal with stress, and how we can reduce chronic disease. We are working with our county’s chief strategy officer and others to measure our progress,” she said.

 Hurricane Florence; Planning for Disasters with Children’s Needs in Mind

 Only two months into her work coordinating the Task Force, Boyd saw Hurricane Florence change the landscape of southeastern North Carolina, bringing a new kind of trauma to the region. 

 The storm was a common denominator, solidifying work to recover from a recent stressful event shared by all members. The storm also brought assistance and guidance from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, which reached out to the Task Force to help work on preparedness in the context of recovery. Currently, members of the Resiliency Task Force and others are looking, with children’s needs in mind, at how to plan for future disasters.

 The Task Force has also taken advantage of assistance from the Duke Center for Child and Family Wellness through a grant from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. A community needs assessment was undertaken, and the results have guided the types of trainings offered to the community.   

 Other highlights of milestones achieved in the first year of the Task Force include:

  • Training 29 Community Resiliency Model (CRM) Trainers
  • Training or introducing 600 individuals in the Community Resiliency Model
  • Launching a trauma-sensitive pilot schools project  
  • Securing funding for a trauma-sensitive child care center  
  • Funding the director position for two years
  • Attracting 100+ member organizations
  • Attracting  500+ individuals join the Task Force
  • Showing the documentary Resilience to more than 1200 individuals
  • Hosting a Resilience screening and educational event for physicians, which also included a providers’ showcase so physicians could become more aware of mental health resources in the area.

Boyd is quick to recognize and thank others for the work being done in the subcommittees, which also meet monthly between meetings of the entire Task Force.

 In closing the meeting, she thanked attendees and hinted at bigger things to come as the group reviews their strategic plan later in August, with Beth Schrader, New Hanover County's Chief Strategy Officer. IMG_1191

“Thank you so much to everyone who has helped. I cannot wait to see what the coming year will bring,” said Boyd, as she shared, between smiles and hugs, the little starfish bedecked blue ribbons -- her thank-you and tribute to a more resilient New Hanover County.  



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